Purpose, practice and products: How to unite them all
“We made a conscious effort this year to really live and breathe sustainability.”
Mark Huffman knows quite a bit about empowering projects at Unilever. As a Customer Development Director for the Discount & Military Channel, he has aligned his team around incorporating the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) into a business strategy and team commitment.
With a role that allows Mark and his team to see first-hand how their work impacts those in need, speaking with him shows giving back is beyond business – it’s a rewarding experience for everyone. We spoke with Mark about his work and how his team is going above and beyond to represent Unilever, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and themselves:
You’ve been with Unilever more than a decade. How have you seen the company grow, both as a business, as well as culturally?
I knew Unilever was a company I wanted to be a part of, but with the leadership of Paul Polman, the company has become not only a leader in sustainable global business practices but serving our communities we work and live in.
For example, my team volunteered with a children’s camp near Charlotte, N.C., and the Camp Director said he’s never seen an entire office want to be so involved.
Is giving back to communities what your programs are all about?
Absolutely. The way I frame it, some may see volunteering as an inconvenience with all our deadlines, but it’s a reward to others. When it’s all over, you realize all of those things waiting for you in the office weren’t as important.
What is the most impressive aspect about your team, from your point of view?
The way the team embraces the USLP through business and personal commitment. At the beginning of the year, we said we want to do 500 hours of community service work, and now [mid-September] we’re already at 423. We’re going to blow the 500 hours away.
Mark’s team has volunteered with multiple hunger programs.
How would you say your team supports the USLP?
There are two elements. One, we said we need to incorporate into our go-to-market strategy, so we have built the USLP as a part of our joint business plans throughout the year, whether it’s with Feeding America, Dollar General’s Literacy or Dove® self-esteem.
But also our team is very involved with finding ways to serve the community, from reading to elementary school children to serving food in homeless shelters.
Recently, his team participated in a hunger program with Family Dollar benefitting Feeding America, inspired by the goal of enhancing livelihoods and shining a light on the issue of hunger in the U.S.
Can you tell us about your work with the military?
We’ve partnered with a group, Adopt A Solider Platoon, to serve the men and women who are on the front lines overseas and have been away from their families.
Everybody helps box up and ship Unilever products to deployed men and women. We have received feedback from soldiers directly and everyone is excited when the boxes show up. It connects them to home and tells them that somebody cares. We include hand written notes to let them how much we appreciate their service.
Military women participating in Dove® self-esteem event.
Do any pillars of the USLP stand out for your work?
They all matter, but we’re really embracing “Enhancing Livelihoods.” Within my channel, we ask how we can give every American-regardless of economic status-solutions for meals and beauty. With Knorr®, they can feed their family and find a nutritious meal for $5. Suave® is used to create affordable beauty solutions.
How have you seen that mentality spread?
As a father of a 21 year-old daughter, watching the influences of social media highlight reels as opposed to being happy with who you are, the Dove® message that who you are as a person makes you beautiful is fantastic.
We had a Dove® self-esteem event with women of the military and had speakers talk about what women are facing today. We showed Dove®’s Choose Beautiful video, and at the end the two exit doors said “Average” and “Beautiful.” I said, “you have a choice to make today” and encouraged them to go through the beautiful door, and of 200 women, they all did, and many took pictures pointing up at the “Beautiful” sign.
Ultimately, what is working at Unilever all about?
Having purpose. As a company we stand for something real. The brands embody that purpose, and I think it becomes infectious.