Humane management case study: The private sector organisation

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In her new book Vlatka Hlupic provides case studies to prove that humane management is not just a nice to have. We take a look at some of those organisations included

In 2010 new chief executive at Unilever Paul Polman announced that he was ending quarterly reporting and other short-term financial targets and committing the company to sustainability.

“The years 2007 to 2008 posed big questions about what was going on in this world,” he says. “I think a lot of people started to realise that companies needed more of a purpose and they needed to transform their economic system to make it work for more people. Overconsumption, environmental stress and climate change being among the problems.”

Polman’s response was to redefine Unilever’s goals in terms of societal and environmental impact, not just sales.

Unilever spent more than a year preparing the company for the shift, “because it’s very clear that if your own people aren’t on board or don’t feel comfortable then you will not be able to achieve the results externally either,” says Polman.

The business carefully measured and tracked all the products in its total value chain. This became the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). Managers set 50 targets, which the company accounts for publicly. These include: sustainable sourcing, reaching a billion people to improve their health and wellbeing, and reaching people with efforts to improve oral care and nutritional health challenges.

“We spent a lot of time on our company values; communicating these ideals; celebrating, explaining, living these ideals; and empowering people to be role models,” says Polman. “If you focus only on share price and neglect people then your business will likely degrade in the long term.

“The question of a higher purpose is placed at the heart of business planning, strategy and operations. If you are not driven by a purpose you don’t have a long-term business model.”

More details on this case study can be found in Hlupic's new book Humane Capital: How to Create a Management Shift to Transform Performance and Profit

Further reading

Humane resources: Interview with Vlatka Hlupic

Humane management case study: The public sector organisation

Humane management case study: The SME

Humane management case study: The not-for-profit

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