• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Unilever Nigeria’s business strategy, operations are driven by purpose – Carl Cruz

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Unilever has been operating in Nigeria for a century, manufacturing some of the country’s leading consumer goods brands. In this interview with select journalists, Carl Cruz, the managing director, speaks on some of the company’s success factors in the past and the plan to remain relevant in the next 100 years and beyond. Joshua Bassey brings excerpts

Tell us the vision of Unilever and what has made it stand out through the years.

Unilever’s journey began with our founder, Williams Lever. His vision of making products that solve environmental challenges was evident when he introduced Sunlight bar soap in the early 1890s. This milestone helped the Lever Brothers become the first company to popularise cleanliness in Victorian England. This particular vision has become a purpose for Unilever—a purpose that underpins our business strategy and guides our operations.
Over the years, we have become a leading company in health and hygiene products. Our vision to make sustainable living commonplace permeates our global and Nigerian operations and is their driving purpose.

Could you tell us how Unilever Nigeria Plc has evolved over the years and what makes it a truly Nigerian company?

As a business that is 100 years old in the country, we have evolved into a truly Nigerian company, full of pride and positive impact through our brands that are household names in Nigeria. Over the years, our journey of impact in the country has been made possible through various stakeholders: our employees, the government, regulators, trade associations, NGOs, key distributors, vendors, suppliers, and our consumers. I have been with Unilever for decades and worked in different markets. I can clearly say that our business in Nigeria is deeply-rooted in the resilient spirit of Nigerians.

You’ve said the Unilever story has been guided by purpose, please share an overview of how this purpose has been a catalyst for driving impact through brands and operations.

Purpose underpins our operations in all markets, including Africa and Nigeria. Through our journey, guided by purpose, we built the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), launched in 2010, and wound it down in 2020 after making an incredible impact across our ecosystem in that particular decade. Our purpose, now re-launched through our COMPASS strategy, is more holistic and encompassing for a more significant impact through our brands, people, and operations. Through our journey of 100 years, guided by purpose, we are leveraging partnerships to make an impact. Our impacts cut across several sectors, enabling us to contribute to Nigeria’s socio-economic development.
Unilever will stop at nothing to continue driving impact through our brands and operations, especially as we celebrate 100 years in Nigeria.

Over the years, Unilever brands such as Pepsodent, Closeup, Knorr, and many more have become household names and are still very much around today. How would you describe your brand’s staying power in a highly fragmented and competitive market like Nigeria?

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In our industry, teams and brands that engage consumers strategically will always win in the marketplace. At Unilever, the consumer is at the heart of everything we do as an organisation. Over the years, we have built great campaigns for Knorr, Royco, Pepsodent, and Closeup. These campaigns have become synonymous with the Nigerian way of life. Having been here for a century, we have had to evolve how we operate and engage with consumers. This makes our brands fresh, relevant, and impactful in the country.

Through our journey of 100 years, guided by purpose, we are leveraging partnerships to make an impact. Our impacts cut across several sectors, enabling us to contribute to Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

Unilever is a leading voice in equity, diversity, and inclusion advocacy. Can you tell us more about this and how it has been incorporated into the operations of Unilever Nigeria?

This is a crucial success factor for Unilever, especially in Nigeria. As a company serving a diverse consumer base, our employees’ representation reflects diversity such as gender, social and economic background, ethnicity, and beliefs. I am very proud to say that we exited 2022 with a female employee representation ratio of 47 percent. More importantly, over 51 percent of all new hires are female. We have also started a journey to include persons with disabilities in our employee base, which today stands at 1.4 percent, and our objective is to reach five percent by 2025. A key thrust of Unilever is to provide a safe zone in the organisation.

The future of work is a huge conversation that has evolved differently. What is Unilever doing about adopting technology in the future of work?

I think it is the right topic, and this is big on our agenda in Unilever Nigeria. For us, it is not about technology over humans or humans over technology. It is about finding the right balance that works well for us to engage the consumers here in Nigeria in the best possible way. We are embracing the future ways of working through our agile working. It is a system that allows everyone to function at their best.

The Compass is the strategy for the Unilever group to be a force for good through purpose and innovation. The Compass is founded on three pillars: Brands with Purpose Grow; People with Purpose Thrive; and Companies with Purpose Last.

The Unilever Compass corporate strategy puts serving our stakeholders at the heart of everything we do and outlines how we intend to make that ambition a reality.

The Compass very much builds on the past ten years of the USLP: the successes, the failures, and the lessons learned. It lays the pathway for us to realise our vision of being the leader in sustainable business globally – as well as to finally put to bed the debate of whether sustainability is good for business. The Unilever Compass integrates the financial, environmental, social and governance dimensions of our business. The Compass is underpinned by existing business fundamentals of our operations, such as business integrity; safety at work; employee wellbeing; product safety and quality; responsible innovations; being responsible taxpayer; and our commitment to transparency.

At Unilever Nigeria, we firmly believe that winning in the marketplace requires winning with and through people. This belief continues to guide how we work and is reflected in our policies and practices at every stage of our employment cycle.

Our employees are our most valued assets, and as such, their well-being and purpose are integral to building a positive work environment that drives growth. In this regard, we deployed initiatives to promote a highly engaged and productive workforce while inspiring a sense of accountability and ownership.

As part of our drive to foster a productive and inspiring environment, we re-launched initiatives such as an agile working campaign powered by the recently completed office renovation across our business premises.
We included a crèche, eco-friendly office workspaces, optimised resource sharing, and disability-friendly infrastructure. These are in addition to initiatives such as flexible working arrangements and the Maternity and Paternity Support (MAPS) scheme.

As we celebrate the centenary of Unilever in Nigeria, what should Nigerians look forward to from the company in line with the strategic direction of building a brighter future together?

The intent is to be here for the next 100 years and beyond. After being here for a century, Nigerians can expect a better and stronger Unilever as an organisation.

We want to increase our relevance to Nigerian consumers by continuing to offer established products in a refreshed way and bringing in a diverse set of portfolios from other markets that will be genuinely relevant to making the lives of Nigerians much better in the next 100 years and more.