global director purposeful marketing & sustainability

As Global Director for Purposeful Marketing & Sustainability at Unilever, Sarah’s role is to embed purpose and sustainability into all Unilever’s leading brand in the Beauty & Personal care Division.

As Alan Jope recently commented at Cannes, Unilever wants all of its brand to be brands with purpose – brands which are taking measurable and meaningful action to make a positive difference in the world.

Sarah comes from a marketing background and worked as part of the Oral care team to craft Signal’s brand purpose – “To spread outstanding oral health to everyone to unlock the power of their smile” and the brand’s long standing Brush Day & Night behaviour change program which has changed the brushing behaviour of more than 83million people since 2006. It was in this role that Sarah also started working on Beauty & Personal Care’s plan to increase social impact, reduce environmental impact and enhance livelihoods. The opportunity to grow brands by taking meaningful action to solve social and environmental problems is something Sarah is passionate about and is the reason she joined the Global Sustainability team in 2009, becoming part of the team which developed the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which was launched in November 2010.

Since then, Sarah has worked with brands and categories to embed purpose and sustainability into everything they do – working with the top Beauty & Personal Care brands to define, develop and take their purpose to greater scale. For example, working with Lifebuoy to scale up the reach of their handwashing interventions to achieve the big audacious goal of changing the handwashing behaviour of a billion people as part of the brand’s mission to Help A Child Reach 5 -  a milestone which was announced in April this year. Sarah also works with brands starting out on their Purpose journey to define the issue the brand can take on, develop what the brand will DO & SAY to put their Purpose into action and how to nuance the Purpose to land successfully in local markets. A recent example is work on Tresemme to equip women to make their presence count – overcoming Imposter Syndrome and the confidence gap  – to help women look, speak and act with more presence as they pursue their professional ambitions. Taking action on the environment is also key and Sarah works with categories and brands to identify their most material impacts and the actions they will take to not only minimise these but also make a positive difference.

Why I am judging the awards

Brands have enormous reach and, with this, comes both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to use this to make a positive difference in the world. 2.5 billion people use a Unilever brand everyday – giving us an opportunity to use those interactions to make a positive difference, by engaging citizens in issues and in taking actions to make a positive difference.

People all around the world are worried about the issues facing us – from packaging waste to climate change, social injustice, inequality and beyond. Yet often individuals feel a bit lost and powerless to act, wondering what they can do as one person to make a difference. Brands can play a powerful role in making it easy for people to take action, creating movements and collectives where people feel part of a group taking action. When brands and individuals join forces they can create real change – summing up many small actions to deliver a big difference. Whether that’s Seventh Generation joining with citizens and grass roots organisations to persuade Mayors and cities in America to #committoclean or Love Beauty and Planet encouraging small acts of love for yourself and the planet through its beauty products, brand DO actions and consumer outreach.

I am excited to see how the award submissions this year have used their brand or businesses’ marketing muscle to create measurable and meaningful social or environmental impact – leveraging what the brand is best at to play a useful and authentic role in taking on an issue that matters.

Judging panel

Wayne Emanuel

Head of Gaming Partnerships

Anita Yuen

strategic partnerships social good

Kristen Hallenga


Tom Stevens

director of marketing
Pride in London

Sarah McDonald

global director purposeful marketing & sustainability

Ben Greensmith

uk country manager (GM)
Tony's Chocolonely

Jo Wallace

creative director

Johnty Gray

mass engagement director

Kate Bosomworth

MC Saatchi

Hilary Jones

ethical director
Lush Cosmetics

Sophia Story

Chief Changemaker

Chris Barnes

founder & CEO
Adjust Your Set

Emily De Groot

ops consultant & dear adland
Emily de Groot Ltd

Ken Banks

head of social purpose

Tessa Tricks

Creative Partner

Reuben Turner

creative partner & founder
GOOD Agency

Helen Jones

Creative Director
Shelter UK