Unilever ramps up its “BSR” efforts

We’re doing quite a bit of work on “Brand Social Responsibility” (BSR), led by our new partner, Anne Charbonneau. BSR takes some of the things that before was done at a corporate level, and enbedding them in product brands. I posted on this earlier, looking at the pioneer of this approach, Ben & Jerry’s.

Unilever are one of the most advanced companies in this area. I was lucky enough to work with a team on the role of the Unilever corporate brand a couple of years ago.  One of the key recommendations was to take some of the many good things Unilever was doing in CSR, but most people didn’t know about, and integrate these into the product brands. This way, these initiatives had a much better chance of creating real impact.

For some Unilever brands, the BSR effort is linked to product sourcing and ingredients. This is normally a dull and distant subject for brand teams. But with the rise in food scares, and concerns about ethical trading, this is set to become a big thing. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Hellmann’s mayo made with only free-range eggs: nice idea, as this sounds more ethical. It also suggests that Hellmann’s have taken real care with the product.

2. Lipton Fair-Trade tea
: I posted on this here, saluting the brave and bold decision to make the whole of the brand fair trade, rather than just a single “ghetto” version.
Picture 3

Other Unilever brands have more of a social mission, with the most famous example being Dove and their Campaign for Real Beauty.

Few learnings on what I think Unilever are doing well here:
1. Integrate it into the brand: the initiatives above are not stuck on as an extra. They are fully integrated into the brand

2. Make sure your story hangs together: Unilever have years of proven experience in ethical sourcing, though they are not as famous for it as they deserve to be.

3. Recruit people that really care: the whole Dove campaign was initiated and led by Silvia Lagnado, and you only have to meet her once to see and feel her passion for the issues. For BSR to be authentic, you need people who really feel a connection with the issues.