Helping refugees while unlocking growth
Unilever Hero Zeina Al Mouallem took action to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan
Every year, we recognise pioneering individuals within the company who have brought our values to life and truly embody what it means to be part of Unilever. Our 2018 Heroes with Impact have gone above and beyond their day-to-day jobs. Their stories paint a picture of passion, purpose and drive.
Lebanon has been heavily impacted by the influx of refugees from Syria fleeing the Civil War. Inspired by their plight, and keen to raise awareness of their challenges as well as funds to support their resettlement, Zeina Al-Mouallem, Shopper Marketing Manager, Levant & Iraq, came up with an initiative called Smile with Us.
Zeina established partnerships with UNHCR – the UN agency for refugees – and with Carrefour, one of our key customers she ran initiatives to raise funds in store. Zeina also set up the Baqala programme, offering three-month paid internships to young Syrian refugees and vulnerable individuals.
“We worked on building their retailing and merchandising skills,” explains Zeina. “They had first a classroom session and then on-the-job training. They experienced what it was like to do the merchandising in a store, and sell in a store. It’s all about using this tool as the main touchpoint to interact with shoppers and consumers.”
Eighty stores benefited from being revamped according to Unilever’s Perfect Store guidelines, with the optimum selection and merchandising of our products. We saw a 4% topline increase in return on investment as a result. The Baqala programme has since been extended to Jordan in partnership with UNDP.
The Smile with Us initiative also made an impact with shoppers through virtual reality in Carrefour stores, giving them a chance to get a sense of the tough conditions that Syrian refugees were living through. Two campaigns were run, resulting in a 30% sales uplift and a donation of $50,000 to UNHCR which benefited 2,540 refugees.
“I wanted to do something more than my actual job,” says Zeina. “I believe I’m at the right place, working for the right company to bring my personal purpose to life, which gives me a lot of satisfaction and trust in the future.”