Skip to content
Alan Jope, chief executive officer, Unilever.

Alan Jope, chief executive officer, Unilever.

Photographer: Jude Edington/WWD/Shutterstock

Unilever CEO Sees Purpose-Led Businesses Only Gaining Relevance

The pandemic is strengthening Alan Jope’s resolve for the company’s approach to good business.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek’s Carol Massar, the good-business champion behind consumer brands from Dove to Ben & Jerry’s shares how the pandemic is strengthening his resolve.
Carol Massar: Which stakeholders should corporations be prioritizing right now: employees, communities, shareholders, or customers?
Alan Jope: We’ve been operating a multistakeholder model for about 10 years. We believe that if we look after our employees and our customers, if we worry about society and the planet, if we take care of our supplier partners, then our shareholders will be well rewarded.

Ultimately you have to look after all these stakeholders. But it for sure begins with your employees. You know, without showing authentic care for your employees, I don’t do anything as the chief executive of this company. It’s our front-line people who are making the goods, who are serving our customers. So that, for me, is where it starts.
Does business get harder the longer this goes on?
Yes, it does. We’ve got about 150,000 employees on payroll; about 70,000 of us are office-based and working from home, while an additional 50,000 are in factories. We’re very conscious that for some people working at home is liberating and for others it’s absolute torture.
Millions of people are now unemployed. How do we teach new skills to workers whose jobs may never come back?
Retraining is something that we’ve been busy with for a long time. We are actually stepping up our digital-learning activities, and people understand that if you have a moment where you’re not at full capacity, use it to sharpen your skills.