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Getting inspiration from the leaders of the future


Authored by Douglas Baillie

One of the most exciting and inspirational parts of my job is to interact with university students from around the world - and no single event is more exciting than the annual Unilever Future Leaders' League finals, which have just been held in London.

Unilever sign in Mexico

About the author

Douglas Baillie

Douglas Baillie

Doug Baillie joined Unilever 36 years ago as management trainee in South Africa and was appointed Chief HR Officer, Unilever in February 2011.

The Future Leaders' League is a global competition that offers students an opportunity to work on a real business case and get a very good understanding of what it is like to work in a large multi-national organisation.

It also gives the students an opportunity to network with peers from around the globe and to meet and be coached by Unilever senior managers - and of course have a lot of fun on the way. This year, 30,000 students entered the competition, with 90 students from 30 countries making it through to the final – it really was a mini United Nations

A unique experience and a shared vision

For Unilever, the Future Leaders' League is our opportunity to help develop future business leaders. It also is a powerful tool in giving students the Unilever experience, and sharing with them our ambition of doubling our business whilst reducing our environmental footprint and helping a billion consumers improve their health and hygiene.

We want to be the Number 1 employer of choice in all our markets so we can attract the very best talent - and the Future Leaders League plays an important part in showing promising students what it might be like to work for a business with our vision of a sustainable future.

For the students, this is a truly unique experience. Many will never have had the opportunity to engage with a truly global business, or to experience working on a live business case with coaching and guidance from expert professionals - and very few will have had the chance to meet and share ideas with the leaders of one of the world's most ambitious businesses.

This year’s business case challenge involved one of our largest Ice cream brands: Cornetto. The students were challenged to design a global campaign to achieve a billion ‘hits’. The judging was done by senior managers who all work on Cornetto and, like me, they came away not only truly inspired by the passion and energy of the presentations but full of good ideas.

Students also build strong relationships with each other - and thanks to social media, many of these connections live on well beyond the event. In fact social media are vital to the whole spirit and success of the Future Leaders League: this year more than 126,000 people followed on Facebook, and the contest reached nearly 3 million people across all social channels.

Ready to meet the challenge of building a brighter future

The youth of the world are our future, and the Future Leaders' league is one of our contributions in helping to build our future leaders. The program is in its third year and we have plans to make it even bigger and better next year, with even more countries participating.

I always leave these events truly inspired and energised, and this year’s final was no exception. In Unilever we talk of building a brighter future for the world: I certainly left full of confidence that we have future leaders who are really up for this challenge.

Find out how this year’s finalists described their experiences.

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