It has been an odd year for Unilever. The Dutch multinational consumer goods company saw an 18% decrease in profit in the first half of 2015. And while the company have stated that they see it as a necessary blip as they look to promote more high-end products, the slowing mass market in Europe and North America must be a concern. The company’s image, however, has never been better. Through a partnership with Feeding America, Unilever have provided more than a million meals to children in the US, and actively works with retailers to spread their message.
Unilever promotes a collaborative working environment, and nowhere is this more evident that within its Foundry initiative. The program connects Unilever with startups, who then pitch ideas to the organization’s senior management team. According to Business Wire:‘It [the Foundry] also provides start-ups and entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop and work on global projects, access mentoring from marketing professionals, and tap into a new source of funding through Unilever Ventures.’
The initiative’s main focus is sustainability. Unilever is committed to developing sustainable living and believes that its business practices are important when promoting this. In 2010, the company’s Sustainable Living Plan was put into effect. Now five years down the line, the company has made important strides in reducing its environmental footprint. The Foundry is playing an important role, with the majority of the ideas generated by the program directly linked to environmentally focused initiatives. The challenges show that the Foundry’s efforts are extensive and affect those not only in developed nations, but suppliers in developing countries.
The Foundry was launched in the UK, India and Singapore some time ago. The partnerships generated by the platform have also had an impact on some of Unilever’s most important brands. In 2014, Ice cream brand, Magnum, launched its ‘M-Pulse’ app. Marketing Magazine state: ‘M-Pulse is also designed to enable "proximity marketing," highlighting exclusive deals and offers, in a bid to drive sales and footfall.’ The app was developed by startup NewAer through the Foundry. The initiative is still yet to be implemented in the company’s US operations. This will change on November 17, as Unilever looks to tap into the country’s thriving startup scene.
But what’s in it for the startups working with Unilever? Investment for one. Business Wire state: ‘Unilever Foundry also gives companies the option to apply for funding through Unilever Ventures, the venture capital arm of Unilever.’ There’s also a mentoring scheme, with Unilever working with the startup to develop their brand vision.
As demonstrated by the Magnum app, the Foundry does work on commercial strategies, but the initiative’s main focus is sustainability. And with Unilever setting itself aggressive targets within the area, the Foundry could be the key to it achieving them.