Unilever sustainable path image International Internship Programme

A Sustainable Path

When you have just graduated in energy engineering and jump in employment for the first time, chances are high you’re not really looking for a job but for an adventure…

That was the case for me, at least. I wanted to be facing energy puzzles, turn them around, lucidly spot the issue and eventually come up with just the right solution to make things more efficient, reduce energy waste, save power and make the world a better place.

It sounded quite ambitious to me, too. But amazingly, that’s exactly what I got when, 18 months ago, I set foot as an intern in Unilever’s Home Care Factory in Northern Italy.

Unilever has also an ambitious project: the Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to make the company’s supply chain carbon free by 2030. So my first task there, as a fresh graduate, was to analyse the energy consumption of the factory, understand it, and find a way to reduce it – exactly the adventure had been dreaming of.

Read more “A Sustainable Path”

Tara Ennis profile Business & Technology Management (BTM)

Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever: Tara Ennis, BTM…

Hello, I am Tara and I am on a Business and Technology Management (BTM) Industrial Placement. Doing a degree in Sustainable Development and Politics at the University of Edinburgh you may be wondering how I ended up in Business and IT function. Well truthfully, it was not solely the function that attracted me to the scheme; it was also my pure fascination and appreciation for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan that drew me in. That being said, I will leave my personal story for a later date because as I am based in Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever, I feel it is only appropriate to dedicate my inaugural post to our founder, Lord Lever-Hulme himself.

William Lever, the son of a humble grocer, was a visionary and progressivist whose legacy not only radiates through Unilever today, but can be seen throughout corporate and union strategies worldwide. From an economic perspective, his initial success was born out of Sunlight Soap – the first ever individually wrapped soap bars. Who knew, a commodity we take for granted today was considered so revolutionary just over a century ago? However, although his economic legacy rests in a company whose revenues topped £48 billion last year; what makes me (and many others) proud to be a Unilever employee is the social legacy he leaves behind.

After Sunlight soap took off, and his factory in Warrington was running at full capacity, Lever began looking for a new premises. The plot of land he chose was ideal: near a potential source of labour in neighbouring Birkenhead, with road, rail and water access, and located just off the banks of the Mersey River. Port Sunlight had found its home. However, Port Sunlight was never to be just a factory. Being a great believer in the idea that healthy labourers were more productive he pioneered the concept of employee welfare. Within a couple of years he had built an entire village of 900 homes to house employees from across his business. At a time of vast industrial revolution, where disparities and poverty were vast, Port Sunlight was considered utopian in comparison to average living standards. With a hospital, fire station, manicured gardens, leisure facilities, and schools, workers never needed to leave. In their village, where they both lived and worked, they were guaranteed a decent standard of living and better quality of life.

Port Sunlight Fire brigade
Port Sunlight Fire brigade

The village and original factory site remain almost identical to the time of their construction. Port Sunlight has been declared a Conservation Area since 1978 and has strict upkeep regulations in order to retain the character of the village. Work ethic within Unilever also remains central to Lever’s vision with a high emphasis on employee wellbeing and welfare. Simply walking through the village is a living reminder of Lever’s efforts to build the company we know and love today. If anything it makes me proud to work for a company who is founded on its progressivist thinking whilst staying true to its historical legacy. And to be reminded of that every morning is a pure joy.

 

Port Sunlight village
Port Sunlight village

If Lord Lever were to enter 21st century Port Sunlight, aside from the various mod-cons, I like to think he would be walking into an office not much different than the one he created in the late 1800s. Now that is a legacy to be proud of.

Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Maria profile pic Finance

Finance, it’s not just sitting in an office all…

Hi- my name’s Maria and I’m three months into my Industrial Placement in the Finance Function. I work in Brand Development for Homecare, which is a really exciting global role that gives me a first look at some of the newest innovations coming out of Unilever. I’ve already been given lots of responsibility after just a short while- including leading a Strategic Plan for the Living Hygiene brand in Household Care, updating the quarterly results scorecard for the Homecare VP and creating a cost model to identify potential for margin improvement.

It was pretty daunting coming in for my first day working in central London. However, I was soon put at ease since everyone in my team was so welcoming; my manager even took me for lunch on the rooftop terrace on the first day! Day to day it’s not just creating and updating spread sheets- I’m also having conversations with people all over the world about some of the key issues affecting the Homecare category. I’m constantly liaising with new people, learning about different aspects of management accounting and problem solving, which definitely keeps me on my toes.

But it’s not been all about finance- I’ve also done had some additional voluntary work towards Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. In September, through Unilever I got the opportunity to spend a day with a fantastic charity called Fareshare, who distribute surplus food from supermarkets to places that really need it- including homeless shelters, rehab and community centres. We spent the day delivering food all over London and meeting the people who benefit from their work. You can see us below (I’m second from the left) enjoying a cuppa before we set off on a hard day’s work!

Maria Finance

I also contributed to Dove’s Self Esteem Project by delivering a body confidence workshop to a group of Year 8 students. It was a pretty nerve wracking experience- and a long way from the days at the office that I’ve been used to! But it was incredibly rewarding to see how well the kids responded, and we even got some freebies at the end of the day.

I’ll soon be rotating to a new role, so I look forward to seeing what the next few months will bring!

hi-res_Unilever_New_Logo-Hi_tcm13-277541-328x300 Application Tips

Enactus and Unilever

In your time at Unilever as a graduate or placement student, you are set your work goals under a framework known as your “3+1’s” which are linked to the Standards of Leadership (you can find out more about here: http://www.unilever.co.uk/careers-jobs/graduates/application-process/).  Typically, the “3” of the goals are on “main role” at Unilever and the “+1” is your chance to support and develop Unilever’s graduate recruitment goals. This could mean being a part of an on-campus team promoting Unilever at a university or managing the onboarding process for the next group of students and graduates to join. From now on, you’ll also have the opportunity to work in developing Unilever’s relationship with Enactus UK.

Together with Abs Islam (Marketing Placement Student) we were lucky enough to join at the beginning of this process. As a sponsor company, we were given the opportunity by Enactus to launch our very own Individual Topic Competition to work with individual Enactus projects or whole Enactus teams – that choice, was down to us.

The award gave us an opportunity to really show off Unilever’s proudest asset: Our Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). If you ask everyone here what were the reasons they joined or the main reasons that they stay, the USLP often features in their top 3 (just above free Ben & Jerry’s, obviously). We were then able to pick an issue related to the Sustainable Living Plan that is very important to us and that Enactus projects could benefit from our support… we chose waste – the sexiest of topics!

Waste is an incredibly important issue around the world and Unilever is taking responsibility for its own impact and its influence everytime somebody uses one of our products – 2 billion times a day, by the way.

Our award is set up to incentivise projects to come up with entrepreneurial means of addressing the issue of waste whether that’s through a product or packaging innovation or even consulting businesses in communities to tackle waste across the value chain.

Throughout the year we were able to work directly with Enactus teams from across the UK – whether it was conference calls or one of the two project dens we hosted at Leatherhead and 100VE (Blackfriars). We’re serious about pairing up our expertise to support projects that share our aims and hope the competition and partnership with Enactus will continue to be a great way for us to do that with university students.

That way, as all Enactus students will say… #WeAllWin

Laura Allsopp profile2 Human Resources

Living and breathing the USLP: Laura Allsopp, HR UFLP

So it’s been just 3 months since I embarked on my UFLP journey, and what a blast it has been so far! For those out there that think HR isn’t a strategic part of the business I compel you to keep reading, as my first placement has seen my working on exciting projects that directly contribute to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. I am part of a team that looks after programmes that we run nationally, from diversity and inclusion to mental health and wellbeing, and in my case youth employability. In the UK and Ireland youth employability is a priority for realising our ambition of increasing our social impact, contributing to a Billion Better Lives. I have had the opportunity to really throw myself into the concept, from meeting lots of other organisations and charity partners to government and industry bodies. This has allowed me to gain some real expertise into not only how we make a positive social impact, but also help to support and build the talent of the future!

So what does this actually look like? Well firstly it involves me having overall accountability for the programmes that we run. This means I have to work closely with both my team and also all of our sites to ensure that we are running activities aligned to having a positive impact on youth employability. This can include work experience, employability skills days, running schools workshops, and also more formal work experience that we run in partnership with a charity such as the Prince’s Trust. As you can begin to see this is a huge amount of responsibility, as it means that I need to regularly engage with and support sites on being able to run these programmes. Similarly due to the continued focus on youth employability by government we also have external pressure to use our scale for good through the running of these kind of programmes. Secondly the role allows me to really think strategically about our social impact and how we can best develop this. Our offering in this area is quite new, therefore I have had to opportunity to design an entire strategy about where I think we should take this concept; this was based on who we should work with, what the external context is and how this aligns to our internal business strategy.

So where does it go from here? I think the rest of my placement is going to be largely focused on really driving forward our youth employability programmes, making sure that we not only meet our commitments, but even exceed them, as well as making a positive social impact to the lives of hundreds of young people. This is a really exciting role to be in and hopefully you can see that in Unilever the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan really is at the heart of the business, as is HR Management!

Sure deo profile Business areas

My Summer at Unilever: Dan Seeney, R&D SP

About Me

Hi I’m Dan. I’m currently in my last month working in R&D at Unilever’s Seacroft site in Leeds as part of the summer internship scheme. After I finish my placement in September I will be going back to the University of Sheffield to complete a masters in molecular biology.

Unilever Leeds

Leeds is the GDC for Unilever’s deodorant portfolio. One of its most recent high profile inventions has been the development of compressed aerosol technology which has revolutionised aerosols making them more sustainable for the future and drastically cutting wastage and CO2 emissions which is such a crucial part of Unilever’s sustainability plan.

dove compressed deodorant

A positive about working at this site has been the access to the live factory that produces more than half a billion deodorants a year for global brands including Axe, Dove, Rexona, Vaseline, and Impulse. This access allows you to gain first hand appreciation of how the work you do here can impact the production, as well be giving perspective on the scale of the project you are handling.

My Placement

My placement in packaging development exposed me to new projects that are highly confidential and very interesting. As you can imagine packaging development isn’t at all related to my degree which at first was a little daunting, but after getting in to my projects and being brought up to speed I found myself adapting quickly.

I’ve found myself working mostly in the office, but I have also spent time in the labs. This has really suited me because I would like to move in to a managerial role in the future. Working in packaging is also a very diverse environment with a vast array of projects going on all the time which has given me great exposure to the business side of R&D too.

I have been put in control of organising and driving projects which have enabled me to make contacts all over the world. This exposure to international businessmen/businesswomen from a variety of disciplines has enabled me to grow a more global view of the business and has forced me to adapt the way I engage with people in order to ensure that information is transferred effectively and a common outlook is retained.

Thoughts on the placement

One thing I am amazed at is the level of detail that the company goes to in order to ensure linearity across their suppliers worldwide. The team is constantly travelling to suppliers to ensure they are keeping within the acceptable ranges expected by Unilever. Further to this I also never appreciated how much effort is put in to develop packaging, and how much goes on to drive sustainability that consumers would probably never realise.

Something I have really enjoyed during my placement is the level of responsibility given to me from day one. Within the first few days of starting I was given tasks to complete for a major project within the team. I then got the chance to present my findings to senior stakeholders, which was a great experience to have so early in my placement. As the placement goes on the work level increase as does the level of responsibility, which is a real test as you are always learning new skills rather than on some other placements where you can find yourself shadowing people a lot.

The timing of my placement here was very fortunate with the first few weeks being very busy with the ‘R&D summer event’ where everyone from the site came together to celebrate a successful year. Further to this I was lucky enough to be here for the visit of Alan Jope (President of Unilever’s Personal Care), David Blanchard (Chief R&D Officer), Santiago Iturralde (SVP Deodorants), who gave a great Q&A session, it was interesting to learn about their careers and their opinions on the future of Unilever and was a great way to start the placement. Further to this I’ve also been lucky enough to talk with Alan Palmer (Global Vice President R&D, Deodorants) and former UFLP graduates (some who are now managers) within the company and getting some very valuable advice on careers in Unilever. Being able to network with people in these positions from very early on has given me great insight in to what I can expect from a career in Unilever as well as how to get the most out of it and reach my goals.

Top Tip

My top tips for working at Unilever would definitely be to meet as many people as possible from the start. Throw yourself in to your projects and make as many new contacts as possible. If you can get involved with training, or other projects that aren’t directly related to your goals then do because it gives you a more rounded view of what goes on in R&D. Further to this, don’t shy away from any responsibility, I remember on my first day my line manager told me to ‘fill my boots’ and I have tried my best to do just that, throwing myself in wherever possible.

The best tip though, is to simply enjoy it. Everyone here is really welcoming and friendly and is a testament to the recruitment process that everyone fits in to the team so well. It’s coming to the end of my placement now and I don’t want it to end, I feel settled in to the team and enjoying my work. It will be a huge shame to not see some of the long term projects through.

My Favourite thing about Unilever

My favourite thing about Unilever has to be the social atmosphere. The relaxed nature of the company has allowed me to feel relaxed and able to thrive in this fairly different environment. I have found the sociable nature of my colleagues really helpful as I know that if I require any help then everyone is available and more than happy to help, or point me in the direction of someone else who could help.

Closing Remarks

I hope to apply to the graduate scheme after my placement and take advantage of the fast track on to the UFLP which is a very attractive prospect for me. I look forward to the selection process again as I thoroughly enjoyed the experience last time, and hopefully this placement won’t be the last time I work within Unilever.

I recommend this placement to everybody. Unilever is well deserving in its rank as one of the best graduate employers and you will be able to tell from day one that their goal is to not only test you, but to improve you as well. I didn’t know the FMCG industry particularly well before I joined, I now see it as a potential long term career path.

Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your applications and potential career in Unilever.

jane 2 Business areas

Senior Leader Interview: Carol Bosko, Research Director

We caught up with Carol Bosko, Research Director for R&D at out Port Sunlight site to provide some insight into what a career in R&D at Unilever might entail.

What excites you about science and what made you want to go in to science?

Well I first realised I wanted to become a scientist when I saw the very first example of pH change. I was at a science fair and somebody from a very large pharmaceutical company was demonstrating a simple pH indicator. When the colour changed from blue to green I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I was probably about 5 or 6 years old and it was at that point that science really grabbed my attention.

I think what’s most exciting about science is that you learn something new every day. Your job never gets mundane, never gets boring it never gets too routine because every time you answer one question there are five more questions that it opens up. It is the most intense, exciting and diverse career that one could have.

Were you inspired by any teachers, films or books?

For sure some of my inspiration came from teachers. I remember that in college I had a microbiology teacher who was very phobic about germs so it was always very interesting for me to hear him expound about the dangers of germs and yet those were the things we were studying. He was very inspiring.

 Did you receive any good advice about studying science or entering a scientific career?

I do recall asking teachers about what I should do to enter a career. The best advice I got was to get an advanced degree. That is what inspired me to go on and get a PhD in microbiology.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for how to encourage more females into science subjects?

Well I think if somebody has an inclination for science they’re going to follow their heart so I don’t think people need encouragement to go into science. However one thing I would encourage women not to dismiss is the hard sciences like engineering, physics and mathematics.  Those are very critical and we are certainly under represented as a gender in those sciences. If you are going to go into the sciences remember that you may focus on one discipline like biology like I did-but you can’t forget your physics and your maths. The best science comes from a merging of disciplines and a merging of scientists from different disciplines coming together to look at a problem from more than your own point of view so don’t assume that you can forget your organic chemistry or your calculus.

Why did you chose Unilever?

I grew up in the United States at a time when I knew Unilever’s brands but didn’t know Unilever as a brand or as a company. I first became exposed to Unilever when I was doing my PhD work and I happened to meet somebody who worked at Unilever because they were funding some research in my mentor’s lab. I then began to understand the possibilities of working with Unilever. I understood how good the research was, how good the research facilities were and how many different products it went into and that’s why I chose Unilever.

brands 1

 

What opportunities have you had whilst working for Unilever?

I’ve had so many opportunities whilst working for Unilever. First of all- travel. There is always this opportunity with Unilever as it is a global company. You get to look at consumers in other countries, to work in other countries, to visit other countries and so I do have to say my passport is stamped and it is full because I work for Unilever.  I’ve also had so many other opportunities professionally-to grow and to develop myself. I get to do things that I would never naturally be comfortable with such as doing this interview, standing up in front of people and presenting my work. Unilever is a great place for developing yourself, expanding yourself, and continuing to build your scientific skills as well as your professional and personal skills.

brands 2

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Tom 1 Business & Technology Management (BTM)

My First 6 Weeks in BTM: Tom Heywood, SP

Hi everyone, I’m Tom and I am currently doing a summer placement in BTM.

It was only on my induction day that I found out just how broad the roles within BTM actually were. I was going to be working in Consumer IT, the worry about my ineptitude at coding set in! What had I done? I haven’t done IT since GCSE!

My first day however quickly alleviated my fears with my line manager explaining what the role of IT within BTM actually is. Consumer IT requires you to be a problem solver, partnering with brands globally to manage projects and develop solutions to allow the business to grow in a changing marketplace (not the coding and software development I had feared!!!).

My role is within the global sustainability and traceability team under the wide reaching umbrella of Consumer IT.  Partnering with technology providers like Vodafone to deliver IT innovation to the business and the brands.

1287x929_vodafone_logo

Networking was one of the most important tasks of my first weeks, meeting the team and other employees from across from the business helped me quickly learn about the company’s culture. The friendly ‘Unilever people’ speed the settling in process but it was the wave of immediate responsibility that makes you feel part of the business. One of the truly unique aspects of working within BTM is how cross functional your work is. Project management is a huge part of your role as you deliver projects for all areas of the business whether it be the digital team developing websites, or traceability projects for supply chain and brands. You are given huge exposure to all areas of the business.

I thought I’d talk about one of my projects at this point, the one I have chosen is not the one I spend the most time on, but it is one that I feel completely sums up Unilever as a business and has allowed me to truly live the USLP. This was a key project in my first couple of weeks and was my first experience of responsibility. The project is working with foodbanks in the UK partnering with external strategic business partners to bring together a technology platform of relationship management tools to enable them to meet the growing demand. As well as providing them with business training, organising volunteering events and managing the process.

This is not the project I am working on that is developing business radical growth through revolutionary IT innovation like my other projects. This for me is the beauty of Unilever not only are you encouraged to think differently in order to innovate business growth but you are also provided with projects and time to drive positive social change. The sustainability team is now an increasing driver of business growth, the continued acceleration towards truly sustainable business is an exciting area to be part of. Unilever remains at the forefront of sustainable business practice amongst FMCG’s and being part of this area has allowed me to see where it is going.

The First 6 weeks have gone fast! Working on challenging projects has allowed me to gain valuable experience in the corporate environment and gain that all important commercial awareness. From just a few months ago as a Geography student, talking about the theories of sustainability and sustainable development; to having the opportunity to be involved in the application of these theories has been unbelievably exciting and rewarding in equal measure!

Now into my final few weeks the time is upon me to start the handover process of my projects and beginning the self-evaluation process for which special time with my manager is set aside. What I wanted from my placement at Unilever was to develop my skills as well as gaining an understanding of the corporate world and Unilever more specifically. I have had the privilege of working with VP’s across the business and this exposure to senior managers has been a steep learning curve but one I feel has driven a great deal of personal development. Being part of a team who is driving sustainable business development so quickly and positively has been a sense of real personal enjoyment and has justified everyday my decision to work at Unilever.

Harriet 1 Business areas

My First 6 Weeks in Supply Chain: Harriet Hix,…

Hello! My name is Harriet and I am a supply chain summer placement student in my sixth week at Unilever. It is fair to say, working at Unilever has exceeded all expectations. I am based at 100 Victoria Embankment in London which is Unilever’s global head office and seats Paul Polman, our CEO. The office is a hub of Unilever activity with people hot desking, coming and going constantly, each with different accents, nationalities and job titles.

I work on a global team based out of Switzerland called Strategy and Operations. Global teams have a planning and strategic role at Unilever, devising solutions to be rolled out globally to realise Unilever’s longer term goals and aspirations. I joined the project entitled War on Waste, we are a team of six working across three functions – finance, procurement and supply chain. The focus is redefining and enlarging the traditional scope of what we consider as waste and creating solutions to reduce this waste. Our project positively impacts our Sustainable Living Plan as well as contributing savings across the business.

The first week was an intense induction, within the first half an hour of sitting at my desk I was involved in a conference call with a planner working out of the Dubai office. On my second day, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join my team in Istanbul where my induction continued. I can say with certainty that I learnt more in these two weeks than I thought possible. Climbing this steep learning curve, I was given my project – which I am working hard to complete during my 12 weeks. The project is to create a more fluid and dynamic solution to reduce one of the largest areas of waste. With the constant support of my line manager, I set out the scope and a description of the project in the form of a project proposal and this was sent out to the main stakeholders.

harriet 2

Touring the Ice Cream Factory in Turkey

At this point in my placement, I am at the stage where I am planning the roll out and utilisation of the tool I have designed and created. The tool is an online and interactive database recording and finding solutions to large quantities of business waste. One of the challenges I am facing is how to effectively communicate to all stakeholders, from various parts of the globe, the importance of adopting the changes I am proposing.

I am thoroughly enjoying my placement and I look forward to seeing the project through to completion. The ownership and responsibility you are given is something I did not expect but feel inspired by. The support of my team and greater supply chain function has been encouraging throughout the duration of my placement and even before I started.

When applying for a role at Unilever, I wanted to work on a team that were passionate and valued Unilever’s sustainability agenda and my team have definitely given me this opportunity. Additionally, senior managers have kindly taken the time to meet and explain to me their specific role in reducing Unilever’s environmental impact and positively impacting people’s lives. The passion for sustainable business practice and the interest in the livelihoods of people is an aspect of Unilever that is embedded in every day decision making and the culture. This is something I am proud of and encourages me to continue on my quest to work here when I graduate from University.

Maisie-Rose Human Resources

Clean Team in Africa: Maisie-Rose Byrne, HR UFLP

I have a passion for poo. So in August 2014, I jumped at the chance to combine this passion with my HR knowledge and go on a short secondment with a Ghana based social enterprise called ‘Clean Team.’ Jointly set up by Unilever and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Clean Team works to bring affordable sanitation solutions to urban communities.

I was lucky enough to get this opportunity as a result of a conference I went to in 2013 in Johannesburg called One Young World. This conference was a gathering for young leaders from all around the world (190 countries) to discuss the main issues affecting our world at this time. Speakers included Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Winnie Mandela and Unilever CEO Paul Polman. A truly life defining experience, it enabled me to focus more clearly on the contribution that Unilever can have to the global challenges we are currently facing. Like I was, you might be shocked to learn that more people in the world have access to a mobile phone than access to adequate sanitation facilities… So let’s talk crap.

My task in Ghana was such: set up HR for a sanitation social business. Easy. Ignore the fact that I had no knowledge of Ghanaian law, local culture, the sanitation industry or that West Africa is currently experiencing the most devastating outbreak of Ebola ever seen. Oh wait…

Unperturbed by these minor details, in just over one month, I was responsible for:

– Creating a full range of employee policies, ensuring compliance to Ghanaian Labour Law – this involved becoming extremely friendly with a 78 page document
– Introducing an online HR system, where company information can be stored and employee details can be held
– Regulating employee contracts and creating standardised materials
– Working on organisation structure and design, including introducing an employee band system
– Creating and launching an employee handbook for new and existing employees
– Recommending a Reward scheme for future implementation (based on Monopoly…!)

I also spent time out on the streets trying my hand at selling our product!

I worked closely with the CEO to prioritise what needed to be done, and worked with relevant team members to get input and feedback into the ideas that I was proposing. I was particularly proud of the fact that when I left, all employees had an employment contract. It’s something that we take for granted here, but in a highly unregulated country it was a special moment for many to see their employment formalised.

This was the toughest 6 weeks I have experienced on the UFLP, but also the most fun! Throwing yourself into a completely different culture, learning about the traditions and local customs, making new friends, eating new (very spicy!) food and adapting to a different climate is pretty full on, as anyone who has been travelling knows. But add on top of that a full time challenging job and you have a recipe for one very tired but satisfied worker bee at the end of it all…