Corporate Woke: Finding the balance


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I have a chuckle at corporate "wokeness"  The below article is a cracker and shows one extreme. 

I am of the belief that corporations have a social contract within the environment that they operate. Effectively the contract is to make things better for not only their shareholders/investors but their teams, suppliers, customers and community.  It shouldn't be that hard should it. 

But no, then some  go to extremes. 

You wouldn't think that people so bright would have so much trouble understanding the concept of balance. 

 

 

https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/other-industries/lost-the-plot-uk-fund-manager-slams-unilever-over-ludicrous-focus-on-woke-issues/news-story/fd7949096a1deaf669f3f4f7fe5daabb

‘Lost the plot’: UK fund manager slams Unilever over ‘ludicrous’ focus on woke issues

A millionaire investor has ripped into consumer goods giant Unilever over its “ludicrous” obsession with social issues at the expense of financial performance.

Frank ChungFrank Chung
 
@franks_chungOne of the UK’s most high-profile investors has ripped into consumer goods giant Unilever over its “ludicrous” obsession with sustainability and social issues at the expense of financial performance.

Terry Smith wrote in a scathing letter to investors in his £29 billion ($55 billion) Fundsmith Equity fund that the company had become “obsessed” with its public image, mocking its recent forays into fashionable social causes, The Telegraph reports.

Unilever, a $190 billion London-based multinational which owns a vast array of more than 400 food and household brands including Dove soaps, Rexona deodorant and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, now had an overzealous focus on environmental and social issues, distracting it even as it struggles with a falling share price, according to Mr Smith.

“A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has in our view clearly lost the plot,” he wrote. “The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913 so we would guess that by now consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert — salads and sandwiches).”

Mr Smith said the “most obvious manifestation” was the announcement by Ben & Jerry’s in July last year that it would stop selling ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” of the West Bank, sparking outrage from the Israeli government.

Fundsmith Equity manager Terry Smith. Picture: YouTube

Fundsmith Equity manager Terry Smith. Picture: YouTube

Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement at the time that continuing to sell ice cream there was “inconsistent with our values”, adding that “we also hear and recognise the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners”.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Ben & Jerry’s had “decided to brand itself as an anti-Israel ice cream”, while former PM Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy.”

The move sparked backlash, with several state pension funds in the US including New York, New Jersey and Illinois selling their shares in Unilever for violating their policies against boycotts, divestment and sanctions activities related to Israel.

Unilever has positioned itself as a leader in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment criteria, which emphasise ethical credentials over traditional financial metrics.

In 2019, Unilever chief executive Alan Jope said the “evidence is clear and compelling that brands with purpose grow”.

“In fact, we believe this so strongly that we are prepared to commit that in the future, every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose,” he told the Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference in Paris.

“The fantastic work done by brands such as Dove, Vaseline, Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s and Brooke Bond shows the huge impact that brands can have in addressing an environmental or social issue. But talking is not enough, it is critical that brands take action and demonstrate their commitment to making a difference.”

A Ben & Jerry’s climate change-themed flavour launched in 2020.

A Ben & Jerry’s climate change-themed flavour launched in 2020.

The company said at the time that in 2018, its 28 “Sustainable Living Brands”, those “taking action to support positive change for people and the planet”, grew 69 per cent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 75 per cent of overall growth.

Unilever’s shares have fallen 9 per cent over the past year, while the UK market has risen 11 per cent, and its profits have fallen for two consecutive years – from €12.4 billion ($19.5 billion) in 2018 to €8 billion ($12.6 billion) in 2020, The Telegraph notes.

Mr Smith said his fund still held Unilever shares, despite the criticism.

“Although Unilever had by far the worst performance of our consumer staples stocks during the pandemic, we continue to hold the shares because we think that its strong brands and distribution will triumph in the end,” he wrote.

Last year, Unilever announced it was removing the descriptor “normal” from its soaps, shampoos and other personal care brands, saying the word was not “inclusive” and had a “negative effect on people”.

The word “normal” is often used to describe what type of skin or hair – such as normal, dry, fine or oily – is recommended for a particular beauty product.

Unilever said the change was part of its “Positive Beauty” strategy, “championing a new era of beauty that’s inclusive, equitable and sustainable”.

Unilever rebranded Fair & Lovely as Glow & Lovely. Picture: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unilever rebranded Fair & Lovely as Glow & Lovely. Picture: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We recognise that images portraying a certain kind of beauty affect all of us – men, women, children, and people of all ages and ethnicities,” Markus Rehde, general manager of beauty, personal care and homecare at Unilever Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement.

“Australia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and it is important that the language we use on our popular products, such as Dove, Lifebuoy, TRESemmé, Simple and Sunsilk, reflects our diverse customer base, as well as our values as an inclusive brand.”

At the time, Dr Bella d’Abrera from free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs told The Daily Telegraph the move was “ridiculous”.

“Being ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ is not triggering for anyone except for the Unilever marketing department,” she told the newspaper.

“By desperately trying to be ‘inclusive’ Unilever is alienating the majority of its customers who fall into the ‘normal’ hair category. The folk at Unilever are clearly on another planet and completely out of touch with mainstream Australians who consider themselves normal and ordinary.”

The move came after Unilever a year earlier renamed its Fair & Lovely skin-lightening creams sold across Asia and removed references to “whitening” or “lightening” on the products, after “(recognising) that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty”.

In 2019, rival consumer goods giant P&G faced online backlash after an ad for shaving brand Gillette challenged men to “shave their toxic masculinity”.

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......and for those wondering what this has to do with cigars?

 

Financial institutions are in a virtue signalling race to dump their involvement in contentious areas such as fossil fuels and tobacco. 

There is a push in Australia currently for legislation forcing banks to make banking services equally available to all legal enterprises. 

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4 minutes ago, bassistheplace said:

I vote w my $$$$

Absolutely. My house has a listed of banned businesses. To many other choices out there for everything.

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I'm pretty cynical about a lot of these campaigns and view most of these initiatives as shameless PR stunts... just think about all the free press Ben & Jerry's gets by stirring up controversy... If the CEO of Unilever really cares he can push the board to reduce his compensation (pretty sure he makes like GBP10M) and donate the savings to whatever foundation supports his cause of choice...

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Here's the info about Ben and Jerry's in Israel:

https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/opt-statement

"Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. "

So they will still be operating in Israel proper.

Their Israeli factory is located within the 1948 borders:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be'er_Tuvia

Also concerning B&J and Australia, I remember this one:

"In May 2017, Ben and Jerry's announced they would not serve two scoops of the same ice cream flavor in Australia, due to the refusal of the Australian government to legalize same-sex marriage. "

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_%26_Jerry's

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1 minute ago, El Presidente said:

Imagine MC or Visa coming out and saying that they will no longer do tobacco. 

They already do that for legal sex work, and things that go against their "moral standards"

1 hour ago, El Presidente said:

 

There is a push in Australia currently for legislation forcing banks to make banking services equally available to all legal enterprises. 

This I agree with.

But this is an article about a consumer company, they're allowed to run their company how they want. If consumers don't like it they will find another company to support

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Just now, traveller said:

 

But this is an article about a consumer company, they're allowed to run their company how they want. If consumers don't like it they will find another company to support

Beg to differ.:D

Unilever is a multinational with over 400 brands.  They are not the only ones going down this rabbit hole......but they are going very very deep down it. 

They are getting plenty of blow back. it is not a bad thing. 

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Just now, Bijan said:

@El Presidente said that that's coming "any day now". Though last I heard that was 6 months ago.

Dear feint of memory. :D

Our merchant gateway folks were talking 6 months and it will be for BR first :ok:

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3 minutes ago, Nevrknow said:

Great. Now who's giving away secrets? 🤣 ( As I keep buying dips 😎 )

I’m right with you brother

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12 minutes ago, Shrimpchips said:

Offensive to otherkin.  Not woke enough.

Otherkin is an identity, not a gender identity. What I missed was "Non-Binary".

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Just now, 99call said:

For everything movements of change get wrong,  the things they get right are far more valuable and worthwhile.  It's a messy business

Of course, they are the self appointed determinants of "the things they get right are far more valuable and worthwhile"

 

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