Profit and Purpose Breakfast


After our last sell-out event, we followed up with a standing-room only talk at The Groucho Club – with two more insightful and inspiring speakers, Karen Hamilton, Global VP Sustainable Business at Unilever and Nigel Gilbert, CMO of TSB.

With a delicious breakfast at hand, and a roomful of interesting people from sectors as diverse as banking, consultancy and telecomms, we learned about really making Purpose happen.

Nigel spoke first, talking about his love of a good challenge and his general dislike for banks – two good reasons why it appealed to orchestrate Britain's largest bank launch in 100 years!

Karen talked about her journey from being CEO Paul Polman's right-hand woman in creating the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at a corporate level, to now making sure that individual brands in the Unilever portfolio are thinking about their combined commercial and social purpose.

We summarise their talks below, as well as capturing 10 key lessons to take away...

Nigel Gilbert

Nigel Gilbert


A one-time ad man, who – while at Lowe – oversaw the creation of 'The world's local bank' campaign for HSBC, Nigel Gilbert moved "client-side" to lead the reinvigoration of the Lloyds TSB brand.

Now at TSB, with an intervening stint as Virgin Media's CMO, Nigel saw an opportunity to create a bank that harked back to the values that used to be common in the sector.

Originally, banks came into existence to help communities thrive, but this Purpose got lost with international expansion and riskier investment banking. So Nigel and his team created a strong and differentiating Purpose that's all about helping local people and the communities in which they live to thrive... It's become a rallying cry across the business - and a great proposition to customers: Local Banking for Britain.

But how to make it happen, and achieve the 50% growth needed to balance the bank's 4% market share with the 6% of infrastructure it owned. Talking about it wouldn't be enough, especially in a sector like banking. "You've got to do it."

A key step was reimagining the core product: the current account, to create the Plus Account, rewarding loyal customers - the "boom loop" - rather than trying to bait new ones with inflated short-term incentives - the "doom loop".

Significantly too, colleagues at TSB are now all share-holding Partners, with "skin in the game". This isn't just a job any more, this is a "mission we're on". With something to really believe in.

Nigel was keen to point out though that this isn't "just me being idealistic: it's about growing the business, and succeeding where others have failed - with a business proposition rooted in Purpose."


Unilever brands are used by more than two billion people each day. Karen Hamilton sees this as a huge opportunity: "We can make a real difference!"

During Karen's tenure, Unilever has gained sector leadership in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and CDP’s Band A and was awarded FTSE 100’s Best Sustainability and Stakeholder Disclosure Award.

She says that it's in great part down to Unilever's CEO, Paul Polman, that Unilever "rediscovered" its Purpose: Make Sustainable Living Commonplace.

A key inspiration was one of Unilever's original founders, William Lever, who helped bring affordable hygiene via the Lifebuoy brand to Victorian England at a time when epidemics of typhoid, smallpox, cholera and diphtheria were a constant threat. Considering his example prompted the question, what are the equivalent challenges today that are possible risks / opportunities for society and the business?

It's this pragmatic approach – that it's important to build a business case, alongside the moral case – for doing the right thing that has helped Unilever to make such enormous strides. When you can boost growth, reduce cost, lower risk and increase trust by making your business and your brands more 'Purposeful' – what a win.

Furthermore, Unilever has discovered that Purpose really matters to people. Consumers are increasingly expecting this from big corporates, and employees get fired up too. Unilever is today the 3rd most sought after employer, after Google and Apple.

And while it takes some grit and determination, plus a side helping of patience – it's worth keeping optimistic. With Purposeful brands growing twice as fast as the rest of the portfolio, Karen says, "We're on to something!"

Karen Hamilton, Global VP Sustainable Business - Unilever

Karen Hamilton, Global VP Sustainable Business - Unilever

Paul Twivy, Core Purpose Co-Founder

Paul Twivy, Core Purpose Co-Founder


  1. Purpose, in our definition, is about commercial and social impact, and being transparent about that. Building the business case, as well as the moral case, to do what's right.

  2. Purpose has to be about more than just words on a page, or “pink wash”. The business needs to demonstrate not declare, making Purpose live through products, services and everyday behaviours.

  3. It's more than the supply chain. We've moved on from green. It's about the positive social contribution you can make and how that aligns with the business.

  4. Purpose is only really believable when it's truly authentic, springing from a company’s roots, its history, its personality. It can't be a "pretend worthiness"!

  5. It's important that this is championed at the top: the CEO needs to lead – supported by operational champions across workstreams to get stuff done, and informed from the wider employee base perspective. Purpose needs to live across the organisation.

  6. "Being Purposeful" has the biggest impact when it can act as a "rallying cry", a movement that the business can genuinely get behind.

  7. Internally, people can't always get their heads around Purpose and how to implement it. In many companies, it's not been part of the culture historically. It needs a process, a set of professional tools and a culture of "learn and re-apply" – it's time to professionalise how we approach Purpose.

  8. In a context where "CSR is dead... And push marketing is too," building Purposeful Brands is a more sustainable way to differentiate your brand(s), and ensure commercial success.

  9. It's true here too that what gets measured gets done – so you need to define and measure what you want to happen.

  10. Finally, this takes time, and will take some grit, and some patience to make happen... Be optimistic – the prize is long-term, sustainable business success and legacy.