Polman’s Plan to Save the World
He's remade the consumer goods company as a model of responsibility. Can he prove his model works?
Step out of the frigid drizzle into Unilever’s factory outside Liverpool in northern England, and the brightly lit, automated assembly line gleams in stark contrast to the gloom outside. Thousands of bottles shoot down a conveyor belt with a click-clack sound, in a streak of bright purple. Look more closely, and there is an important detail. The new bottle is squatter than the older, taller style on another assembly line, with a smaller dispenser and a label explaining that this version of Comfort brand fabric conditioner is good for 38 washes, rather than the 33 of the last-generation package.
The message is clear: Customers need to help save one of earth’s most precious resources—water.
This might appear to be a clever bit of marketing by one of the world’s biggest consumer product companies, and marketing it surely is. But to Unilever (UL, -0.58%), its updated, concentrated liquid is also a crucial innovation. It’s one of countless tweaks underway by the Anglo-Dutch company in its more than 300 factories across the world, which churn out more than 400 brands for 2.5 billion or so customers—an astonishing one in every three people on the planet. Central to these changes is a message Unilever is determined to convey to its investors, as well as to other companies: Big corporations need to change the way they do business, fast, or they will steadily shrink and die.
read more Fortune magazine, Feb 2017 , credit : Vivienne Walt