Luis-Xavier Hernández | General Counsel, Data, Privacy & Digital | Unilever

For GCs, the very first question you need to ask yourself is how much of a diverse and inclusive mindset you have as a leader. Only then can you successfully analyse how diverse and inclusive your current team is.

For GCs, the very first question you need to ask yourself is how much of a diverse and inclusive mindset you have as a leader. Only then can you successfully analyse how diverse and inclusive your current team is, both with respect to hard numbers but also in terms of its culture.

Luckily, I work for a company that is perhaps one of the most diverse in the world. This helps tremendously when looking at the composition of teams, but most importantly at the culture of the organization.

Diversity and Inclusion brings more value than most people think. Companies with successful D&I cultures grow faster, stronger and more sustainably. D&I attracts the best talent, it provides a much stronger management base that takes into account a more robust view of business, society, customers and consumers, and it allows you to contribute to positive change in society.  At the end of the day, we are here to leave a better place for the next generation. Embracing diversity and being inclusive will certainly contribute to that.

Luis-Xavier Hernández | Unilever

Deploying D&I policies on a global scale is one of the biggest challenges for any type of global corporation, particularly one with a footprint like Unilever’s. We have to understand that a diversity and inclusion agenda means respecting different cultures in different parts of the world. It is hard to come up with a rigid approach to certain metrics that may have varying degrees of relevancy in different parts of the world. You have to really understand and cater for that, because the main reason for having a diversity and inclusion agenda is to make sure that every individual in the company has the exact same opportunity to succeed as anyone else. To do that, you need to cater for realities and cultures in different places.

From my perspective, values rest on universal principles that should apply everywhere, like treating everyone in the organization with respect, providing equal opportunities no matter the gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation or any personal beliefs.  Living and breathing these values makes us richer, stronger, and more united in every corner of our organization.

While it could be challenging to drive consistent metrics across regions with their own cultural characteristics and idiosyncrasies, I think the best way to reconcile that tension is to ensure that values are never compromised, no matter the circumstances.  That to me is a must and reflects the culture of your organization.

Better business in the digital sphere

As head of Unilever’s legal team overseeing data privacy and digital, I frequently find myself balancing the value of certain data related propositions with the complexity and cost required to execute them in a legally compliant manner.  It always comes down to finding that reasonable balance. What I have found helpful is to start our assessments by asking the question ‘what is the purpose of collecting personal data, in this case related to diversity and inclusion?’ This data point will lead to other relevant questions about proportionality and transparency but understanding the purpose works an effective gate and it’s definitely a strong start.

Most large organization have stats and metrics to measure their diversity and inclusion efforts, but few people realize how complicated and sensitive it is to process such information. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, most personal data is considered sensitive personal information, and for a good reason. The potential harm to the individual is heightened compared to other types of personal data, and as such organizations need to think very carefully about how such data is collected, used, and protected. The stakes are high.

From a data privacy perspective, the rules governing what sort of data organizations are permitted to hold will only get tighter. The entire ecosystem, from individuals to regulators and lawmakers, is taking more interest in use and misuse of personal data. That means we need to be ahead of the game and think through how and why we collect information. But there is an even more important question to be considered. The question of ethics.

Transitioning from what is legally required to what is ethically expected is a challenging but powerful journey that I think all players in this space should consider. It’s not only the right thing to do but also what most stakeholders would expect in these times. .

Ultimately, we want to be compliant with data protection laws while helping advance our D&I agenda, do the right thing for our employees, for the company, and for the whole ecosystem of partners, suppliers, customers, and consumers. I want to make sure that any information we collect is strictly necessary to achieve the ultimate purpose of advancing our D&I agenda and do something that is aligned with our corporate values and high ethical standards, while protecting individual privacy rights.

I think data and digital professionals will continue to face the challenge of finding the right balance between supporting legitimate business initiatives and remaining in compliance with the spectrum of regulations on a country-by-country basis – including sometimes outdated regulations.

Unilever is one of the leaders in the brand safety movement, which concerns itself with ensuring that our brands are presented to consumers in safe environments and of course a key part of this effort is holding media outlets and agencies accountable for that. It’s not as simple as it sounds though,  mainly because the digital space is formed of so many different players that it has become a complex, non-linear ecosystem. However, I believe that  all players but in particular the most influential ones have a degree of social responsibility to improve the digital ecosystem in the interest of millions of viewers who consume media and as a consequence advertising.

I have the privilege to serve as a board member of the Better Business Bureau National Programs Inc, a globally recognized organization that fosters consumer trust in advertising which is the reference point in the United States with regards to self-regulation and many other globally relevant programs. The BBB National Programs is a great example of an organization that really has the consumer interests at its heart. It truly stands for transparency and fairness in advertising. As such there is very much similarity in values between Unilever and the BBB National Programs and that’s why I accepted the board role without hesitation.

It has been a great experience being part of BBB NP’s board, it has given me an invaluable platform from which I can contribute my experience and passion for certain topics and perhaps shape in some way or form the strategic agenda of the organization. It has also given me an external perspective of the market place, consumers, and companies in many different industries. As GC, I have learned that having an external perspective of the world and the industry where your company operates is an invaluable enabler of a diverse vision. It also energizes me to continue to drive positive change.