Survival Of The Super-Fittest: The World’s Most Purposeful Brand

Julie Barrier

In my last blog, I introduced you to a ground-breaking new report, the Fit for Purpose index. The report lists the top 100 worldwide brands that flex their purpose muscle.

Now, I want to take a look at the super-fittest of all purpose-driven companies: Unilever. What is this organization doing right? How did the company earn this top super-fit spot? And what can we all learn from its purpose-driven approach?

Purpose is now serious business

Unilever’s ranking in the Fit for Purpose index was nearly four points ahead of the next best company – which is the widest gap in the full list of super-fit companies. The company is not shy about its purpose, which requires “the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards everyone we work with, the communities we touch, and the environment on which we have an impact.

The company wants to make sustainable living commonplace, a statement that caught the eye of the folks behind the index report. They called it “strong and inspirational,” saying that it leaves no doubt about the impact the company wants to make.

The report notes that Unilever’s purpose extends to its business strategy, business model, and portfolio – and they are a company that is designed to drive purpose-led decisions.

Part of “getting” the concept of purpose is to ensure it’s practiced throughout the whole company – and that’s what Unilever does.

The CEO gets it

Commenting on its top ranking, Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, shared these thoughts. “We can no longer pretend that business can immunize itself from the rising tide of environmental challenges. We see this as the best long-term way for us to grow and bring benefits to all our stakeholders. To succeed in this goal, we need to change the way we do business and to scale up the impact on the issues that matter most.”

This guy gets purpose. There’s no doubt about it.

“I always felt that the role of business should be to make a positive contribution to society,” Polman tells his son, Sebastian, in an interview on Huffington Post. “Otherwise why would it be there? Why would people allow it to be there? So if anybody who is in business can’t explain what they do to help others, or to make a positive contribution, they should really ask themselves why they are there in the first place.”

Yes, he gets it.

An impact that extends around the world

There is another reason why I personally applaud Unilever. The company is heavily aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an initiative that is near and dear to my heart as well. Unilever has achieved amazing environmental milestones, such as zero waste to landfill across the globe throughout its factory network, and a reduction of CO2 from energy and water in manufacturing of 37% and 32% respectively since 2008. In addition, 60% of its agricultural raw materials are sustainably sourced.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Fit for Purpose Index report points to the story of Comfort One Rinse and how the company is striving to help people around the world conserve water when washing clothes. Started in 2012, this initiative has already helped thousands of homes in drier regions of the world use up to 75% less water.

It’s all of these efforts that make this company the super-fittest.

The UN recognizes Unilever’s – and Paul Polman’s – super fit efforts. Polman was recently awarded the Champion of the Earth Award, the highest environmental accolade from the United Nations. He champions how his company impacts the world and we all benefit.

Keeping good company

By 2020, Unilever wants to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and hygiene, and it wants to enhance the livelihoods of millions of people. And, by 2030, it hopes to halve the environmental footprint of the making and using of its products.

It will take technology to achieve these goals, and SAP – another super-fit company in the Fit for Purpose index – is helping Unilever achieve its purpose and sustainability goals with our solutions. We super-fits stick together; after all, helping the world run better and improving people’s lives is our higher purpose at SAP. In fact, playing a role in helping our customers help the world run better and improve people’s lives is what gives us the utmost gratification.

Congratulations Unilever. Your super-fit achievements are an inspiration to us all.

This blog is part of our Fit for Purpose series. To learn more about how SAP embeds purpose into our business and technology innovations, visit sap.com/purpose


Julie Barrier

About Julie Barrier

Julie Barrier is Vice President of Purpose-Driven Marketing at SAP. She created and leads a global corporate initiative to humanize the SAP brand through purpose-driven initiatives, messaging, and storytelling. Julie is responsible for the strategy, content, and creative execution to position SAP as one of the most purposeful brands in the world. She is passionate about how technology can be used to enhance our lives and solve problems big and small. For more information, visit sap.com/purpose and sap.com/UNGlobalGoals.