Global MBA hosts Unilever Foods category President

Yesterday, the Global MBA hosted ESSEC alum Antoine de Saint-Affrique, the President of the Foods division at Unilever, for a presentation about his career in consumer goods at our Cergy campus. M. de Saint-Affrique discussed Unilever’s international nature, as well as their ambitious plans for growth as the wealth in the global economy expands between now and 2020. He discussed at length both his personal commitment to sustainability and Unilever’s dedication to this principle, founded on the belief that companies that are not focused on sustainability will not last in the long-term. This principle is tangent to the belief in the capacity of a company to do well by doing good; focusing on sustainability improves Unilever’s efficiency and its image in the minds of consumers in the long run. In this way, making conscious efforts to reduce the company’s negative impact on the environment and increase its positive impact on the lives of individuals affected by its various products and projects ultimately has a positive effect on profits.

In recent years, Unilever has made major shifts to address company culture, and M. de Saint-Affrique stressed the importance of leadership and of people in making these changes; you can’t change culture without changing people, he said, and cynical employees are toxic in an organization. In terms of personnel, he also discussed Unilever's 70-20-10 philosophy of employee development. This ratio means that an employee learns 70% of what they need to be successful in their role on the job, 20% of this knowledge comes through company-driven trainings (including training and interaction directly with the top management of the organization, an initiative that the company holds dear), and 10% comes from the formal classroom setting.

Unilever is a company that is defined by its international presence and the diversity of its employees. This presents both challenges and opportunities for individuals, and ultimately contributes to the richness of the human fabric of the company; individuals carry elements of their culture with them wherever they go, and at the same time are constantly learning through their interactions with other cultures. M. de Saint-Affrique discussed the various experiences he had working in Eastern Europe, in Russia, in the US, and now in London: in all, an excellent representation of the type of globalized career the Global MBA students are looking forward to.

His most critical piece of career advice? Have a strong moral compass, and follow it. A lot of hard work and a little bit of luck don’t hurt, either.

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