Unilever global comms and sustainability chief Sue Garrard to step down

Sue Garrard, Unilever's global comms chief and one of the most influential and respected figures in corporate PR, will leave her role at the end of August, PRWeek has learned.

Sue Garrard: One of the biggest roles in global communications
Sue Garrard: One of the biggest roles in global communications

PRWeek understands that her position, which includes heading the consumer goods giant's sustainability agenda as well as its comms function, will not be replaced directly.

When she leaves, the comms function will be headed by Paul Matthews, VP global media relations, external affairs. Responsibility for sustainability will fall to chief sustainability officer Jeff Seabright.

Garrard is now understood to be assessing her options for after her departure.

Garrard, who was listed second in PRWeek’s 2018 Power Book list of most influential UK-based corporate PR professionals, has one of the biggest roles in global comms, being responsible for teams in 180 markets covering media relations, employee engagement, public affairs and issues and crisis handling.

She joined Unilever in 2011 from the Department for Work and Pensions, where she was comms director.

PRWeek contacted Unilever about Garrard's departure but did not receive a response before the time of publication.

Streamlining, sustainability and a solid defence

On joining Unilever, Garrard's initial brief was to streamline its comms into a single entity, and as her responsibilities grew, Garrard was given charge of implementing the group’s Sustainable Living Plan in her role as senior vice-president for sustainable business and comms.

The ambitious project aims to make Unilever a sustainable business, and it is now often seen as a role model for putting purpose at the heart of a successful global corporation.

Notable announcements include its pledge to use 100 per cent recycled plastic by 2025. The company is also known for taking a stand on social issues in recent years; for example, pledging to end gender stereotyping in its marketing.

Garrard also headed the comms defence of Kraft Heinz' eventually unsuccessful £115bn bid for Unilever last year, along with Tulchan boss Andrew Grant.

Garrard is vice-chair of the Advertising Association, a role she has held since 2014. Until 2013, she was a non-executive director of the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Speaking to PRWeek in 2015, Garrard discussed how she was using comms to help double the size of the business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact.

Unilever CMO Keith Weed stirred debate this week when he called for "urgent action" on fraudulent social media influencers. Weed announced a range of new commitments, including not working with influencers who buy followers.

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