Unilever will continue to invest in Vietnam, where it has its two plants, its CEO, Alan Jope, who is currently visiting HCMC, has said.
The UK-based consumer goods company would invest not only in production but also development of brands and people, he noted.
Since most of the company’s output in Vietnam is sold locally, it does not see the country as a low-cost production base for export.
Speaking about sustainability, he said the easiest way is to reduce energy consumption through investment in new machinery and lighting systems.
Firms should not think it is a choice between good business and ethics because ethical businesses could also be good ones, he said.
Visiting Vietnam for the first time since Covid broke out, he observed that HCMC has much more modern than it was four years ago.
Describing Vietnam’s economy as one of the best managed after the pandemic, he said while Unilever is still struggling in many other places, its Vietnam operations are doing very well.
After coming to the country in 1995 Unilever quickly became a consumer goods giant with products like Lifebuoy soap, OMO laundry detergent and Sunsilk shampoo. An estimated 35 million of its products are used daily in Vietnam.
Its plants are in HCMC and the northern province of Bac Ninh and it also has distribution centers in Bac Ninh, the central city of Danang and the southern province of Binh Duong and a workforce of 1,400.
“We’ve had strong growth here,” Jope said, without disclosing numbers.
He said projections for Vietnam’s GDP growth of 6-7% this year are feasible, and maybe even 8% is.
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Indonesia are the most attractive markets for Unilever with their large populations and well-managed economies, he said.
Since the per capita consumption of consumer products in Vietnam is still quite low, there is much room for growth, he said.
Unilever has big ambitions for the Vietnamese market, and expects it market to double in the next five to 10 years as against 27 last time.
Jope said it could be achieved through good brands, good business and good impact on society.
He said four aspects confirm the view there is no trade-off between financial performance and sustainability.
Firstly, brands that consumers see as having a positive impact on society and the planet sell better and are growing seven times faster than the rest, he said.
The second is cost, he said, explaining that while sometimes there are short-term trade-offs that firms incur as an investment, in the long run sustainable business leads to a stronger business.
The third is an advantage in attracting talent since talented young people want to work for companies that have a positive impact on issues they care about, he said.
The fourth is that it helps mitigate risks, he said. “A world submerged in water or on fire due to climate change is not a great place to sell shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, or food.”
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