Unilever director talks about reputation challenges
In an exclusive interview with the Aberje portal, Antonio Calcagnotto also talks about sustainability, corporate governance, and other issues
In early January, the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance (IBGC) promoted the 89th edition of the training for members of the Board. Deliberative Council member, Antonio Calcagnotto represented Aberje.
Antonio Calcagnotto is the head of Corporate Affairs at Unilever Brasil, being responsible for the corporation’s internal and external communication. He highlighted the importance of the training due to the possibility of integration with other professionals in the field, updating and deepening concepts, and the theme: “Reputation for the longevity of organizations.”
Calcagnotto spoke with the Aberje and highlighted the direct relationship between sustainability vs. reputation.
Do you believe that the IBGC and associations like Aberje can collaborate mutually for more effective practices in corporate communication?
I not only believe, but I consider the two entities fundamental to the longevity of organizations. Aberje is the birthplace of corporate communication. A center of excellence that has the role of ensuring the professionalization of the area, promoting the exchange of good practices and experiences. The IBGC is the benchmark in corporate governance in Brazil. Being able to take a closer look at the work they do to sensitize new board members about their role in the development, maintenance and evolution of reputation only demonstrate how important the Institute is also for the promotion of strategic communication in the top management of organizations – be they companies, entities or associations.
You’ve highlighted the importance of reputation for the longevity of companies. What points remain to mature with companies in terms of reputation?
In my view, one of the main points is the excessive concern with the financial result in the short term versus a consistent and perennial reputation management process. We have several concrete examples of institutions that favored financial results over the possible impacts of these decisions on reputation, and the balance was disastrous.
We cannot ignore that a negative reputational impact does not only compromise short-term financial results. It can even hinder the sustainability of that business. With the extreme transparency trend, which has taken more shape with the digitalization of the world and relations, there is no more room for doubtful conduct. They have an immediate impact on image, reputation, and business. For this reason, it is urgent and equally important that boards and senior management prioritize the issue on their agendas.
You are currently the executive responsible in Brazil for communicating with one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world. In recent years, you have been actively working with narratives that involve sustainability from a broader perspective: the environmental and economic pillars. Is this key to improving corporate reputation?
Undoubtedly. If we think only of the economic sphere, the short-term results will be saved. However, if we consider the famous triple bottom line from strategy to execution, the result will be saved in the short term, but also the medium and long terms.
When there is no conduct based on ethics and transparency, which considers what is best for the business, for the planet and the stakeholders involved, the organizational reputation will certainly be compromised.
Once again, I’m talking about the importance of council involvement here. They must build clear strategies, with governance processes that cover social, environmental, and economic spheres.
In addition to reputation, what are the other pillars that need to be worked on for good corporate governance?
The most important aspects that should govern good corporate governance, in my opinion, are transparency, long-term vision, end-to-end management (taking care of the entire value chain, because we are co-responsible for everything and everyone who participates in our productive process), consistent communication (the famous “walk the talk” was never so necessary) and what I call gentle assertiveness. Often, even due to our cultural characteristics, we are excessively polite in speaking at key meetings or in decision-making moments. But for organizational culture, business and reputation to evolve, we need to have difficult conversations constantly. There is no way to have coherence between speech and practice within the organization’s walls without giving up the excess of politeness that often permeate relationships and distance us from the true purpose of a company: working to serve the greater good of society.
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