Unilever believes sustainability = profits

Tuesday, October 8, 2019 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures

"Hope this thing is non-virgin, re-used, compostable material"

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Hey Snackers,

RIP iTunes (2001-2019). May the young Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts platforms carry on your legacy.

Markets barely budged to start the week as US/China trade talks kick off.

1. Unilever renews its sustainability vows with a major anti-plastic pledge

What's Anglo-Dutch and sold in every supermarket?... Unilever. The consumer packaged goods beast is dual-headquartered in London and Rotterdam — but its Axe body spray, Dollar Shave Club, and Dove soap are products without borders. Unilever doubled down on its global citizen-ness by pledging to cut the amount of virgin plastic it creates in half by 2025.

Sustainability. So hot right now... But former Unilever CEO Paul Polman was the trendsetter. Way back in 2010, he envisioned all its teas (including Lipton and a bunch others owned by Unilever) to be sustainably sourced by 2020 — fair working conditions, bribe-free deals, and environmentally safe processes. Now here comes the big BUT:

  • But Unilever is the #8 plastic trash creator on Earth — producing 700K tons of virgin plastic per year that's used once then moved to a landfill until the dinosaurs return.
  • That's not sustainable, so Unilever will use alternative materials and recycled plastic whenever possible. Aggressively.

Sustainability is not anti-profit... There isn't necessarily a trade-off. Check out Unilever's Vermont-quisitions: Ben & Jerry's and Seventh Generation. Both build Earth-friendliness into their business models — and their mission-oriented brands let Unilever charge a higher price. Unilever's CEO believes its anti-plastic pledge will be pro-spending among the Millennials and Gen-Z who hold companies to higher standards.


The brick-and-mortar store that wanted to become an ecommerce startup... Sounds like a lovely children's book. It's also the story of Walmart in the face of Amazon's growing domination. The historic retailer wanted to prove to itself and investors that it could fend off competition from ecommerce companies by beefing up its own online muscles.

If you haven't removed the tag, can you return it?... Walmart acquired a few key ecommerce startups the past few years (because that's easier than innovating itself) — but in the past couple weeks, it's trying to reverse those moves. Almost all of them.

  • 2016: Jet.com is Walmart's 1st ecommerce pet, a purebred that cost $3.3B. But this summer, Walmart folded up all the Jet employees into Walmart corporate.
  • 2017: Dude chino legend Bonobos was bought by Walmart for $310M. Yesterday it went slim-fit and announced dozens of layoffs.
  • 2017: Extra faux vintage women's wear website Modcloth was acquired by Walmart just 2 years ago. Walmart already sold it last Friday.
  • Not sure when: Walmart incubated a fabulously unprofitable text concierge service for busy, high-end shoppers: Jetblack. Now it's looking for outside investors for the startup that loses $15K on every customer.

The reckoning for unprofitable companies just extended beyond IPOs... Ruthlessly efficient, Arkansas-based Walmart has a short patience. The old guard is annoyed that Walmart's ecommerce moves get all the media attention — those investments lose a reported $1B per year, while the old school stores quietly crank out profits. And profits are Walmart's north star.

What else we’re Snackin’
  • ETA: Postmates breaks down why it's delaying its IPO. The arrival window is now TBD.
  • Paste: Group Nine (the parent of Thrillist and NowThis) just acquired PopSugar for $300M in stock — the year of the media merger is real
  • Anti-fake: California passes a law banning "deepfakes," real-looking doctored photos or videos meant to misinform you about a politician during election season
  • Slashed: GE needs to cut its debt so badly that it's freezing the pension plans of a whopping 20K employees and offering to buy-out 100K retired ones
  • Sidelines: The NBA watched China cancel all business with the Houston Rockets after the team's general manager tweeted support for Hong Kong's democracy movement
  • Hancock: Livongo jumps 18% on word it signed its biggest contract ever, offering its diabetes management service to 5.3M federal employees
Snacks Daily Podcast
  • Harley Davidson's US sales have shrunk since 2014. The reason: Millennials don't buy hogs. The solution: A $30K electronic bike that isn't really selling.

  • Seltz on the Beach. South of the Bubbles. Claw-rona. Un-Basic Beach. They're all better than boringly named Corona Hard Seltzer. Vote here in our poll for which one's the best.


Disclosure: Authors of this Snacks own stock of Amazon.

ID: 974658

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