Unilever, 100 years and beyond

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

“We have been in the country for 100 years and will be here for a couple more hundred years,” Unilever global chief executive officer Paul Polman told media persons at lunch the other day. He made the statement just a couple of hours after he met with President Aquino in Malacanang where they discussed the company’s investment plans in the Philippines for the next six to 10 years.

All about the Magkakaibigan Hall of the Unilever office in Paco, Manila, were billboards showing off some of the myriad Unilever brands that two billion people, including Filipinos, use everyday: Knorr bouillon cubes, Rexona, mayonnaise, ice cream, Eskinol, Dove, Vaseline, Surf detergent, Sunsilk, Lifebuoy, Pond’s, Mazola, ad infinitum.

These products are sourced and manufactured in the Philippines, benefiting Filipino farmers and entrepreneurs. Polman spoke about the plan to generate employment for some 7,000 to 8,000 Filipino workers and income for local farmers through Unilever’s thrust of increasing its agricultural sourcing locally under its “sustainable living program.”

Already, the global food and consumer care giant sources 100 percent of its tamarind or “sampalok” raw materials for its Knorr “sinigang” or sour broth here.

Unilever wants to be able to source all of its coconut oil requirement from local farmers, resulting in a more sustainable supply and assuring a more stable income for the farmers. The plan looks at helping 30,000 coconut farmers provide coconut oil for Unilever products. The oil is used for Knorr coconut milk or “gata” product line.

Polman said the company is allotting 100 million euros or $120 million over the next six to 10 years to expand and upgrade its manufacturing operations in the Philippines.

Addressing his partner investors and media at Magkakaibigan, Polman proudly spoke of Unilever’s kind of corporate social responsibility program which takes responsibility over “the total value chain. When one is in the food business, one worries about reforestation, about the smallholder and their livelihood, about obesity or diabetes.”

For example, Unilever factories have zero waste now, Polman said. “I don’t think any company of (our) size or scale has zero waste-to-landfill, yet we have achieved that. Most of our major raw materials are now sourced and sustainable. And we are proud of that, and our energy in Europe and the US is green energy.”

Polman talked about the focus now being on “sustainable development goal,” which takes off where the Millenium Development Goal is leaving off, with some goals left unachieved. Under sustainable development goal, the jobs to be finished are eradicating poverty and climate change.

He spoke of five areas where Unilever Philippines has linked up with government agencies to help enhance the lives of Filipinos. First, there’s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) which teaches kids to wash their hands; nutrition which the government could use 15 percent of their GDP to help children’s mental growth in their first 1,000 days; the third, climate change, with focus on reforestation. The fourth area is creating livelihood – an issue found in many countries, thus the global goal of creating five million new jobs.

The fourth area is women, “the most underutilized, most discriminated asset in the world.” In Africa, alone, in agriculture, women do 60 percent of the work, 50 percent of the output, and only 10 per cent of the income – a situation that exists in the Philippines.

Going back to his meeting with President Noy, Polman, who has been Unilever chief executive officer since Jan. 1, 2009, said the cabinet secretaries present may have been wondering why he did not ask for tax deductions or subsidies.

“But we obviously are a different breed. We’ve been in the country for nearly a hundred years, and we’ll be here for another hundred more years…What we do here make us proud. We are playing the role that is way beyond creating influences, by showing what you can do and how you can change the life of many.”

*      *      * 

People have different ways of celebrating their birthday. Hosting a big bash, attending mass, requesting gift-givers to donate to their favorite charities, treating the family to a sumptuous dinner at five-star hotels, or spending a weekend in Hong Kong or Camiguin Island

On her 66th birthday last week, Rep. Gina de Venecia did not give a lunch, but rather was gifted by her sisters with a sumptuous one. Together with the invitations sent out was a note that instead of cash, invitees can give “in kind” to the Haven for Women, the Haven for Children, and the Haven for the Elderly. These were projects Gina initiated when she was head of the Congressional Spouses Foundation. So “magis” brought boxes and bundles of old and new clothes, blankets and canned goods.

Lunch was at the newest events place in town – the old (and now renovated) Sampaguita Pictures compound. Cabinet members, some of the rich and mighty, Gina’s former classmates at Assumption College, and movie stars, were there to give her a buzz. The opening prayer was said by Bro. Armin Luistro. Entertainment numbers included songs by Gina’s daughter Carissa Evangelista, and granddaughters Bella and Gabby Evangelista who sang “Let It Go.” Ali Sotto, co-founder with Gina of Ulila, an organization of mothers who have lost their children, spoke a bit. Then Gina introduced her special guest whom she calls her “adopted son,” the world-famous boxer from General Santos, Manny Pacquiao. The best remarks were given by her husband, former House Speaker Joe de Venecia, who publicly professed his undying love for and gratitude to Gina, who continues to give him support in all his undertakings, and ups and downs.

Gina, beautiful and radiant in a red jersey dress, said, “In keeping with the call of Pope Francis to share our love and tend to the poor members of society, I’ve asked my colleagues at the Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc. to extend assistance to the orphans of the Fallen 44 who lost their lives in the service of our nation.”

She matched husband Joe’s loving words. Joe, she said, “has always been the wind beneath my wings; the eagle who taught this little sparrow to fly and watched it soar into the sky, to launch her into flight once again, if by chance she slips. Thank you for your love, Joe!” To her admiring audience, she said, “Join me in my prayer for unity in this country. Recent incidents have caused so much confusion and distrust amongst us. Let us all pray for discernment and guidance, as we chart the future of our nation.”

*      *      *

The Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. is currently conducting a deaf awareness campaign as part of its advocacy for communication accessibility for the deaf. In line with this, it is hosting a big event on Saturday, Feb. 28, for the benefit of deaf students. The project, called “Reach Out,” will feature activities by the deaf, as well as showcase products by deaf-friendly commercial and industrial companies which will be for sale at special prices. Audiologists from the clinical and audiology program of the University of the Philippines will conduct free hearing evaluation during the event to be held at the Philippine School for the Deaf compound on Harrison street, Pasay City.

The event is open to the public. The registration fee of P50 will entitle ticket holders to raffle prizes.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]


vuukle comment










  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with