Businesses have an obligation to be responsible in the way they go to market, not because customers and communities demand it but because they deserve it, according to T2 global CEO and newly appointed CEO of Unilever Australia Nicole Sparshott.
She said, “[Consumers] are looking for brands that have a strong purpose-lead orientation. That also leads to a profit orientation of purpose and profit in equal measure.
“I believe the reach businesses have with the brands they sell enables us to have such a strong ripple effect across the community,” she adds.
When it comes to global trends, Sparshott said sustainability has become increasingly more mainstream, largely driven by consumer and community sentiment.
“Australian organisations and global organisations are bringing much more into their own business practices. There has been a significant amount of focus on the environment. That’s a great thing because we are starting to see some positive impact there.”
However, what she feels is really emerging is the recognition of the societal impact businesses can have.
“That’s why I’m so excited about the intervention that we’re putting in place at T2 to help the business be much more inclusive, diverse, and recognise perspectives from a much wider group.
“[We] enable an understanding of the different people we serve and different people we have in our business so that we can really provide jobs with purpose and integrity for a multitude of different people,” she explained.
While being sustainable is vital to a company, it does come with some financial challenges.
“It does bring some additional cost and some additional complexity to the organisation in the short term. It definitely brings value to the organisation in the medium- to long term.
“It does require a real commitment to the feeling of fear and doing it anyway, recognising it is going to take a very strong and passionate commitment from the top of the organisation right through. Staying the course in those times when it is a bit more challenging and not a straightforward path is incredibly rewarding.”
B Corp certification
T2 recently acquired its B Corp certification, a global scale highlighting those for-profit businesses that drive environmental and social change through their practices.
When Sparshott joined the company as CEO in 2016, she wanted to ensure that all of T2’s products are brought to the market at a high standard. A good way to do that was through a B Corp certification.
The company began its B Corp journey in 2018. Sparshott said, “We made a commitment that we really wanted to be more than just the best tea in the world but the best tea for the world.
“In making that commitment and wanting to be a force for good, we sought to have the highest accreditation possible and that’s what B Corp offers. A very holistic accreditation of a business that looks at corporate social and environmental responsibility,” she adds.
Due to B Corp being a global certification, it helps T2’s stores in the UK, US and Asia continue on the path of sustainability.
“Irrespective of the market we join, our T2 B Corp accredited platform has formed the basis by which we’ve been able to develop our growth strategy and also underlies the choices that we make strategically and operationally.”
T2 has three sustainability pillars: people, planet and product.
Sparshott said she wanted the company to be a part of a global community of businesses that had a positive impact on not only the planet, but the people in the way they operated their organisation.
This is done through a number of ways, firstly is through the way T2 sources their teas. Sparshott said by the end of this year 75 per cent of their teas will be sustainably sourced and by the end of 2021 100 per cent of their teas will be sustainably sourced.
For tea to be sustainably sourced, it has to be grown and cultivated in such a way that it is not doing harm to the environment.
“All of our teas are grown, harvested and picked in a way that nurtures the ground, but in addition recognises the tea pickers and everyone in the value chain that is picking tea.”
In addition to the positive impact on the planet, Sparshott said she really wanted to make sure that the business had a really positive societal impact and recognised the people that are working through its value chain.
“For us that’s meant really rethinking the way we operate our business for people and we’ve got this whole philosophy at T2, celebrating different to make a difference. The way that has manifested is in the introduction of things like blind recruiting. So you remove that unconscious bias that exists when you recruit so you can allow for that really rich diversity to come to the organisation.”
Sparshott said 50 per cent of T2’s leadership team is female and three-quarters of the global workforce is female too.
T2 also allows its employees to adopt flexible working practices as it recognises that different people have different needs when it comes to being able to take up a job that they love but also balance what they’ve got happening outside of work.
As the recently named CEO of Unilever Australia, which has its own sustainability initiatives, Sparshott said she wants to continue the ANZ business on a very strong foundation.
“We will continue to want to push the boundaries on how ANZ can be more purposeful and more sustainable than ever before.”