2017 BBA Winner Profile: Community Contribution Award – Unilever

Written by Sterling Content
December 1, 2017


Written by Sterling Content
December 1, 2017

British Business Award winner Unilever Japan K.K has pledged to continue its work to change Japan’s corporate culture after picking up the Community Contribution trophy at the BCCJ’s 2017 headliner event on 2nd November.

The firm was recognised for its work to operate a sustainable business, drive social change and empower women through its WAA (Work from Anywhere and Anytime) initiative, which was launched in July 2016.

“Japanese companies have some of the longest working hours in the world, and a poor record of gender parity. Unilever Japan is taking the lead against the country’s stressful work culture, with its introduction of agile working,” said Seikei Itoh, the firm’s head of communications.

WAA is part of Unilever Japan’s diversity and inclusion activities. It aims to halt the trend of women retiring from work after marriage or childbirth because of the challenges of juggling childcare and a career, by giving them flexibility in their work life.

The initiative’s wider role is to promote the idea that productivity is more important than attendance at the office. Mr Itoh says that, “by giving people freedom around how and where they work, we are creating a culture focused on performance while helping to improve the work-life balance of our diverse employees.”

A survey conducted on Unilever Japan employees shows that 92% of them have tried the scheme at least once. Of those, 72% said that they feel more productive and 67% noted an improvement in their daily life as a result of trying WAA.

At the macro level, since initiating WAA the firm’s productivity has increased by 30% while overtime has fallen by 15%. Moreover, WAA has helped the firm to achieve its growth target for the fourth consecutive year and is expected to continue to contribute to the success of the Unilever’s Japan business. Financial gains from WAA have been reinvested by distributing iPhones to staff, to better enable them to utilise agile working.

Unilever Japan’s wider work to empower women includes its support of International Women’s Day, the HeForShe campaign that encourages men to act as agents of change for women, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Jisa Biz campaign to stagger the start of people’s work day in order to ease rush-hour travel. All of which, says Unilever, is boosting the firm’s brand and attracting more talent.

The 2017 BBA trophy will join others on display at Unilever Japan’s Meguro Ward office. The firm has previously been recognised for its work to drive social change, including second prize in the Forbes Japan Women Award 2016.

Mr Itoh says the BBA, in particular, means a lot. “We are very pleased to receive such an honourable award and be recognised by the BCCJ in driving a big social movement,” he said. “We would like to continue to lead WAA and women’s empowerment as a catalyst to change Japanese corporate culture.”