Sue Garrard: 'Please don't work with climate deniers'

Sue Garrard - one of the world's leading experts on corporate sustainability who revolutionised how Unilever operates - has a simple message: "Are you with me?"

Sue Garrard joined PRWeek's Hall of Fame last night.
Sue Garrard joined PRWeek's Hall of Fame last night.

Garrard, who was inducted into PRWeek’s Hall of Fame last night and now consults on sustainability, called on the industry not to "talk our way out of something we have collectively behaved our way into" – but rather to "talk and act us out of it". In other words, talk and act.

Garrard spent several years leading Unilever's comms and sustainability – a company that has constantly been the global market leader when it comes to putting sustainability and ‘purpose’ at the heart of how the business operates.

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In the corporate world, she is revered as much for her role as a champion for ethical and sustainable corporate behaviour as as she is for leading the multinational’s comms.

There are very few comms professionals who have made a greater impact at the top table than Garrard.

"Sue’s biggest legacy at Unilever, beyond the team that she led, is the role that she played in developing and leading the cornerstone of our business strategy, which is the embedding of social and environmental sustainability in every aspect of our company," Unliever global CEO Alan Jope (below) said.

"In particular, the idea of putting purpose at the heart of our brand strategies and propositions. Ensuring that all of our brands authentically address important environmental and social issues.

"The work that Sue led has given us the confidence that every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose. We will all stand up for positive change in the world."

'Be part of the action'

The key message from Garrard acceptance speech last night is clear: "if you haven’t got a sustainability plan, you haven’t got a plan," she said.

"We are all judged by the company that we keep, so my first ask is simple – please don’t work with climate deniers.

"Decide how you are going to be part of the action and move from caring and being concerned – to getting stuck in."

Garrard believes that comms lies at the heart of every business: "you bring to life their dreams".

She explains: "Use this amazing capability that everybody has to build a better future. Whether you are in consumer PR and can decode this complex world, whether you are talking on behalf of businesses and trying to explain that you don’t have to reconcile doing the right thing and doing well. Increasingly, and frankly, they are the same thing.

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"If you lobby government – lobby them in favour of things that will make a better world. In favour of creating a level playing field that means good companies are being rewarded and we get to a future we need sooner.

It’s a message fully endorsed by Jope, the Scot who took over at the helm of Unilever from Paul Polman earlier this year.

"Sue can be a role model for everyone here tonight, showing how brilliant communications, brilliant advocacy, tightly linked to business strategy can affect real and positive change to the world," he said.

"I hope you are inspired to see public relations as much more than reputation management, but rather as a strategic influencer and as a force for good, and a representation for how business can be a force for good in the world."

PRWeek UK & EMEA editor-in-chief Danny Rogers, hall of famer Sue Garrard and Unilever boss Alan Jope

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