How a purpose-driven career benefits you – and your business

By Tracy Shepard-Rashkin, Brand Manager, Top Dish and Sustainability at Unilever

At Unilever, we believe taking a leading role in building a more sustainable world is the only path to business growth. In my contribution to the LinkedIn Pulse series, I reveal how we are leveraging our target groups in marketing to promote this message and create a more sustainable future.

I used to think of myself as a marketer – now I see myself as a sustainability champion.

I initially joined Unilever because of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan: the company’s commitment to improving health and well-being and enhancing livelihoods, while reducing its environmental impact. Now in my unique role as Sustainability Brand Manager for our foods and refreshments brands such as Hellmann’s, Knorr and Breyers, I am able to combine my love of marketing with making the world a better place.

Here is how we work with people and brands to improve society – and how this leads to a more purpose-driven career.


 We work globally to support programs that align with our sustainability mission. One way we achieve this is assisting communities in need. One of the greatest challenges facing American cities today is poor diets, driven by a lack of access to fresh food and education on how to cook with it. Our Growing Roots program is designed to tackle and resolve these issues.

We’ve started right in Unilever North America’s backyard and have partnered with NYC mayor Bill De Blasio’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. To address the lack of access to fresh food, we are building six urban farms in public housing developments across New York City, which will unlock convenient and affordable access to fresh vegetables for underserved communities. To combat lack of education on how to cook using fresh vegetables, we are running community cooking classes in East Harlem, whereby Unilever chefs teach our healthy brand recipes to NYC residents, fulfilling our aim to build stronger, more connected communities through food.

We are also a Leadership Partner with Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief charity, with 200 member food banks serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. With Feeding America, we help raise money and awareness in an effort to improve the health and well-being of families and children in need across the country.

These initiatives have completely reframed the way I think about my career; this role is making me a true sustainable living expert. It’s been so fulfilling to straddle the line between the non-profit and corporate worlds and see the tangible impact that my programs are making in people’s lives. As my role grows and evolves, I will further develop my area of expertise in how corporations can have a positive impact on communities.


Just as Growing Roots is a ‘boots on the ground’ expression of Unilever’s sustainability mission, our Agents of Change campaign shares our mission with key influencers. Registered dietitians are extremely influential in their ability to communicate the role our brands can play in a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and through clinical work, social media, and other channels, registered dietitians and nutritionists reach 90 million Americans every year.

Educating these experts on our brands’ nutritional values and sustainability missions enables and encourages them to communicate these findings to their clients.

Agents of Change has really taught me how direct, individualized communication skills and relationship building can be huge drivers for a business, whatever its size.


Agents of Change aims to communicate Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan via three pillars: nutrition (helping people adopt healthier diets), chefmanship (empowering people to cook at home), and sustainability (producing food in a sustainable way). These are the areas where our brands are doing great work to improve health and well-being, so it’s a pleasure to spread their messages and see them gaining traction.

Here are just some examples of how our brands and contributing towards our aim to help 1 billion people improve their health and wellbeing by 2020:


Many people have trouble drinking plain water as it’s not flavorful. Lipton unsweetened iced tea is a naturally refreshing alternative to water at mealtime because it is just as hydrating as water, contains zero-calories, and has a great taste.


Knorr Sides can be the foundation of a delicious and nutritious meal in just 3 simple steps: Knorr Sides + Protein + Veggies = Main Meal. This is a simple technique that can help people gain confidence in the kitchen and prepare good meals for their families.


Hellmann's Blue Ribbon Quality Mayonnaise is made with real ingredients sourced from trusted American farms including cage-free eggs and responsibly sourced oils; and every little vanilla bean speck in Breyers Natural Vanilla ice cream comes from 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified™ vanilla beans, sustainably farmed in Madagascar.

Working with teams across functions at Unilever to bring these messages to life make me feel engaged in every element of our foods business including entire life cycle of our products from farm to plate.

I used to think of myself as a marketer – now I see myself as a sustainability champion.


Refining the way product information is communicated to our consumers is another way we’re fulfilling our aim to improve their overall health and well-being.

Smart Label is a response to consumers’ increasing desires for transparency to make more informed decisions on what they buy – what’s in their food? Where did each of those ingredients originate? What is the packaging made from?

Smart Label sets out to provide a digital repository of product information; everything from recyclability of packaging to growing methods of ingredients will now be available to consumers.

Initiatives like this will inevitably lead to marketers learning so much more about the people we serve and what they prioritize. This creates a dialogue that allows us to serve them better over time. That’s why I went into marketing in the first place – to understand shopper needs and desires and to deliver products that will improve their lives.

Unilever’s commitment to sustainable living truly sets us apart; I am living and breathing it every day. The same applies to my colleagues across the business. Even those without ‘Sustainability’ in their job title apply the concepts of Sustainable Living to everything they do. It’s a truly special place and the existence of role like mine proves that.

Whether you’re looking for an internship, graduate opportunity or job opening to progress your professional career, at Unilever you can shape your own path as you work with the brands and people that drive our sustainable business growth.Discover more by following us on LinkedIn.

This story was originally posted on LinkedIn where you can share it with your social networks.

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