Laura Douglas - Senior Assistant Brand Manager, Dove Hair, Canada
Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s words echo my life’s purpose in this world: to empower, encourage and enhance the lives of others. I truly want this to be my legacy.
“I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
I first came across the above quote seven years ago when I was selected to join Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), an international non-profit organization that Dr. Schweitzer played an important role in curating. Alongside my role as Senior Assistant Brand Manager at Unilever Canada, I am also committed to leadership development as a board member and team lead with HOBY Canada.
HOBY propelled me to take more action to help others and inspired me to seek out opportunities where I could fulfill my passions. In light of this aspiration, I decided to join my University’s Enactus team, another non-profit organization, found in over 36 counties around the globe. It is dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.
Upon joining Enactus, I was able to make a real difference in a country where opportunities to gain a foothold in business are limited for many - Haiti. I evaluated and assisted in developing microloan opportunities to help women start their own businesses. In addition to this, I also evaluated and optimized opportunities to help children through a local nutrition centre. After spending time in Cap-Haitian, I was finally making a lasting difference where it really mattered and, through my work, the power of social entrepreneurship was unleashed to improve the quality of peoples’ lives.
As one chapter of positive change ends, another begins
As my undergraduate course drew to a close and my work with Enactus ended, I made it my top priority to seek out an internship with a company I knew took its social and environmental responsibilities seriously. I wanted to continue making a difference in people’s lives so I researched companies that had aims similar to my own. My search led me to Unilever. I quickly discovered Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which aims to grow the company by decoupling business growth from environmental impact, while also increasing its positive social impact; I wanted to tap into this.
Seeing the obvious links between my own passion for the environment, I applied for a customer development internship with the company, and was accepted. My mission to make a difference was again in motion, and I was excited about the prospects ahead! To aid me in my pursuit of becoming an effective leader who can drive forward the USLP, I was hired full time into the Unilever Future Leaders Programme. I knew this would give me the training and experience I needed to make a lasting difference and significant impact.
During the programme, I reached out to a global Unilever contact working in Haiti who shared my love for the country and its people. She realised that I would be a valuable member and invited me to join the team. Upon commencing my new assignment in the Global Strategies Social Business Models team, I assisted in research & development of Unilever models in two new markets, working in different ways to help women and children.
The first action the GSSBM team works on is linked very closely to my Enactus experience of empowering Haitian women. The team looks at using social business models to give women the tools and opportunities to be entrepreneurs. Baskets of specially selected products, including Unilever and non-Unilever products, are developed for them to sell in their regions. Tailored training is also given to help understand business fundamentals and enhance their well-being. We also identify partners in the local areas who can help us understand the community and complete our mission.
Using the social business approach, which we modeled after our Shakti programme in India, we find solutions to meet women’s needs through unique distribution models. The models we use in Haiti and India are strategically adapted and implemented across other developing countries via support of various non-governmental organizations NGOs).
Building self-esteem through education
The second project tied to my marketing role allows me to focus on the true heritage of the Dove brand. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has existed for over ten years, working in Canada to help the next generation develop a positive relationship with the way they look. Using workshops and educational programmes to teach students, the initiative is something extremely close to my heart for the positive impact it has made on me and boys and girls across the country.
I have worked passionately to scale the workshops so the mission and message can be shared across all schools in the province and beyond. My goal is to ensure that as many Canadian students as possible can reach his or her full potential with the help of Dove’s world-class self-esteem education.
Shared goals = fulfilling career
When committing to a career, it is unquestionably important that you work with a company you strongly identify with and also shares your purpose. My purpose is rooted deeply in serving others; Unilever acts as the vehicle that allows me to strive towards this goal every single day. Simply put, my career and personal goals are aligned to one common theme and not a day goes by where I don’t make progress towards these goals.
Unilever has provided the resources, strategy and teams dedicated to making this impact. Coupled with invaluable mentorship from like-minded individuals with extensive expertise, I simply could not ask for anything more!