JOHANNESBURG – Flourishing communities are largely dependent on the industry around them and the socio-economic growth and employment it creates.
A large component of Durban’s personnel is dependent on Unilever for its livelihood that employs eight percent of the country’s workforce. The adage “Happy employees make highly productive employees” was put to the test when I was taken on a tour through the sprawling campus of Unilever SA in the heart of Umhlanga, by its chief executive Luc-Olivier Marquet. A hairdresser, a gym, a creche and other home away from home amenities including an impressive view of the ocean makes this space hard to leave.
Luco as Luc-Olivier is popularly known has an innate French charisma that works its charm from receptionist to executive. But that is not why Unilever is a giant in the KZN business arena. It’s the leadership and passion that Luco and his executive team bring to improving the lives of the communities they operate in as they continue the legacy of their founding fathers, whose vision for the world was broader than their business more than a century ago. They used their brands, as the world’s largest consumer goods company, to address the social issues of the day.
Luco stands firm in his understanding in carrying the vision of the company forward by being a force for good. “We are at a time where the cost of doing nothing is higher than the cost of doing something” he says.
“We believe that there is no sustainable economic growth without creating a positive social impact. How can we perform in South Africa while around us the levels of unemployment are so critical. How can we work in South Africa having such levels of poverty and children going to school on empty stomachs without doing something about it.