“Global peace is not just an ethical ideal – it helps the bottom line too”

If you were to list the most difficult jobs in the world, establishing world peace would probably sit at number one.

Ruth Mortimer

But our cover star this week, actor turned campaigner Jeremy Gilley, aims to do just that for one day each year. And he’s persuaded corporate leaders such as Unilever chief executive Paul Polman to join forces with him.

Even if your brief isn’t as tricky as creating world peace, Gilley’s mission with Peace One Day should strike a chord. This is a behaviour-change exercise on a grand scale. He is aiming to institutionalise the concept of a day for peace – 21 September each year – in the way commercial organisations have got behind dates like Mother’s Day.

Unilever’s Polman has helped Gilley create a venture, the Corporate Coalition, that brings together brands with the cause. The project is interesting to marketers because Unilever has not only got its employees involved, it has even created a new deodorant product – Lynx Peace – which has a campaign running in 50 countries.

But while businesses may provide Gilley’s organisation with funding and publicity, what’s in it for the brands? For Polman, the aims of Peace One Day fit neatly with his vision of Unilever as a sustainable business. The aim of connecting people around the world also fits nicely with the growth plans of Skype, another corporate partner.

Ultimately, it’s about more peace leading to better trading conditions for brands. As Polman puts it: “When society functions better, businesses do better too.”

Of course, behaviour change is vital not only on a global scale, but on an individual company basis too. Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke may not quite have the hardest job in the world, but turning shoppers back on to Tesco is not proving simple. As we go to press, the supermarket has been making headlines as analysts at Barclays predict
a 2.6 per cent like-for-like sales fall for the quarter – potentially the worst performance since Clarke took over from Terry Leahy. Tesco investors are reportedly already discussing possible successors to Clarke.

Can Clarke tackle behaviour change among shoppers quickly enough to make an impact? Leahy himself wrote this week that innovation would be key to turning round the Tesco brand, writing in The Daily Telegraph that “business growth feeds on original thought and a willingness to try fresh approaches”.

Unilever’s Polman thinks he has found a fresh approach in working outside his industry with Peace One Day. What are you doing differently today?

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