The changing of the guard – will it change the corporate vision? Annemarie Penderis, our Head of Corporate Reputation, shares her views on the big shakeups in fmcg.
It’s a year of big change as far as the top echelon of FMCG is concerned. What will this mean for the corporate behemoths and the reputations these individuals have helped to shape?
UNILEVER Hot on the heels of the announcement that Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, is set to retire after 10 years with the business, the company last week released news that long-serving marketing chief, Keith Weed will also be hanging up his gloves after an incredible 35 years with the business – the last eight in his current marketing role. It is undeniable that both have created an incredible reputation legacy – for themselves and Unilever. Weed most recently launched an attack against platforms such as Google and Facebook and the industry took note, especially after he threatened to withdraw advertising from both platforms unless they considered urgent reforms be undertaken to combat the prevalence of fake news, racism and sexism. In seeking to enhance the company’s stance on equality, he launched the #Unstereotype Alliance with UN Women, targeting the removal of ‘unhelpful stereotypes’ from 24 companies advertising by 2020.
Polman too – a provocative leader – helped drive internal galvanisation through Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’. He is widely recognised as the driving force behind the perception change of Unilever during his decade-long tenure. He may have been slightly tarnished by well-documented decisions around Brexit but his impact cannot be denied. He once referred to Unilever as the ‘world’s biggest NGO’ and that goes some way to describing the monumental shift he achieved in attitudes towards the business.
NESTLÉ This week also saw the news released that Dame Fiona Kendrick will step down as Chairman of Nestlé after an impressive 40 years with the company. Originally trained as a teacher, youth employment and skills have been a particular passion for her and ones that she integrated into the company, creating a legacy of programmes and firsts – including being instrumental in the creation of a Food Engineering degree course. I’m delighted to learn that her impact and influence on the industry will continue as she maintains roles on the Food and Drink Sector Council and Institute of Apprenticeships Board.
PEPSICO Finally, although it already seems a lifetime removed from the past two weeks’ announcements, Indra Nooyi announced her departure from one of our key clients – PepsiCo – in the summer and she left her role as CEO in October. Again, her influence over the past 12 years led to PepsiCo pursuing a healthier agenda for its products – launching and acquiring a number of ‘better for you’ alternatives to the iconic ranges on offer, as well as a truly motivating, inspiring and galvanising exit speech to the company which was shared and lauded across social media.
All of these ‘iconic’ leaders have left an indelible imprint on the corporate reputation of their respective businesses, driven by their individual beliefs, values, passions and leadership. I look forward to seeing, and reporting on the new generation of leaders step up to create their own niche that will shape our view of their corporate citizenship.