Here is what COP26 sponsor Unilever is telling its stakeholders about its climate actions (Surprise!)

COP26 starts a few days from now. The conference has 11 corporate sponsors and I have just examined the first one on the list: Unilever. I have to say that I have been really surprised by what I found. I just don’t understand it. Please help me to work it out.

Here is what I have done: I consider that companies have three main stakeholder groups: customers, employees, and investors. I have looked at how and what Unilever is communicating to each publicly.

Customers and employees: The content for these audiences is absolutely exceptional:

  • The company home page leads off with climate imagery and messages about COP26. I realize these are temporary messages and don’t know what the page will look like after the summit.
  • The Our Strategy page is clear and lists the corporation’s five strategic initiatives. While none are directly about the climate, there is a link to more detail.
  • That detail is what the company calls its Compass Strategy. It is covered with lots of words jammed into two slides. A third of the second slide is about how Unilever will “Improve the health of the planet.”

Excellent stuff indeed!

The website also includes a fabulous Climate Transition Action Plan on 53 pages. The commitment and governance structures both seem strong. The two main components of the governance structure are described as follows:

  • “The Carbon Neutral Board: Drives delivery of our carbon ambition at the corporate and country-level and leads strategic partnerships and policy on renewables. It is chaired by our Chief Supply Chain Officer, Marc Engel.
  • The Sustainable Sourcing Steering Group: Supports our strategy focusing on long-term, sustainable access to our key crops. It is chaired by our Chief Procurement Officer, David Ingram.”

Investors: Timing can be a wonderful thing. Unilever reported its latest quarterly results just last week. They made the usual sort of earnings announcement and also provided a comprehensive update on the progress they are making with their business strategy:

  • Here is what they said about their climate efforts in the Q3 Trading Statement: “[…imagine the sound of crickets…]”
  • Here is what they said about their climate efforts in the 26 page presentation to investors that accompanied the Trading Statement: “[…imagine the sound of tumbleweed in the wind…]”

The semi-soundless crickets and tumbleweed are not mistakes. Unilever said nothing at all to investors on the topic. Why? Why does Unilever consider it to be the most important communication focus for customers and employees, while apparently being something that must be avoided at all costs when speaking to investors?

I don’t know.

What do you think?