What Do Unilever’s Layoffs Mean?

Unilever announced it will cut 7,500 jobs and spin out its ice cream business (after divesting from most of the tea biz a few years ago).

Because I know there will be a lot of noise about their sustainability focus — and pundits saying ‘see, that sustainability stuff doesn’t pay’ — I’ll point people to my article from last year, “The Burden of Proof on Sustainability is Too High“.

In short, whenever a company with a sustainability plan has problems, the press immediately blames sustainability or stakeholder focus. And yet, when every other company stumbles, nobody says “you know, that shareholder profit maximization thing doesn’t work!”

There are MANY reasons companies could have layoffs or divest of a business — in fact, wall street often rewards companies for firing people, and indeed Unilever’s stock popped 6% briefly yesterday (the general equating of layoffs with good management is so warped, but it’s a topic for another time).

Time will tell if Unilever’s sustainability commitments wane, but so far I haven’t seen much real evidence of that.

[I’ve been thinking I should post some shorter thoughts, mainly from LinkedIn posts. After listening to an interview with marketing guru Seth Godin, who has written 8,500 daily posts (!), I find myself asking the unanswerable philosophical question…what is a blog? To discuss this one more, check out the lively LinkedIn discussion that started yesterday.]