Unilever: ‘We want to change ecommerce for the better’

Unilever is looking to invest in tech start-ups and retail businesses that can provide it and its retail partners such as Tesco and Superdrug with more sustainable solutions to the ecommerce experience.

Unilever’s startup programme the Unilever Foundry is hosting a ReHack 2015 event later this month and its ecommerce innovation boss Joe Comiskey said it is looking to invest in businesses that can find ways to help online retailers reduce waste and give back to charities.

He explained: “I think there’s many areas that can be changed for the better, packaging especially. We need to find a way to think about doing online deliveries at warehouses without the need for shelf-ready packaging, which is only really needed in-store, to cut down on waste.

“We also like what Toms did with their model of giving somebody in the third world a pair of shoes for every purchase. Finding a start-up which can mirror that level of charity and sustainable innovation within ecommerce would be fantastic.”

Unilever has invested heavily in its ecommerce offering over recent years with plans to grow its global e-commerce sales by 40% by the end of 2015 through personalisation and launching direct-to-consumer websites like it did for its Maille mustard brand.

Comiskey, however, said the ReHack event, which will be held on June 25 and 26, is more about efforts to drive sustainability in wider online retail than its own ecommerce affairs.

Unilever’s ‘sustainable living brands’ such as Dove and Ben & Jerry’s accounted for half of the company’s growth last year and grew twice as fast as other brands in its portfolio.

Comiskey added: “I think more and more people are choosing brands on more than just price and the strength of their marketing campaigns – consumers now need to feel connected to the brand ethically.

“If online retail is to continue to grow then it has to look to become more sustainable and we want to help change the overall experience, and the role of brands within it, for the better.”