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Geoff McDonald

Former Global Vice President HR (Marketing, Communications and Sustainability) Unilever

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Geoff McDonald

Former Global Vice President HR (Marketing, Communications and Sustainability) Unilever


Geoff McDonald is the former Global Vice President HR (Marketing, Communications and Sustainability) at Unilever.  

McDonald's background in teaching, HR, marketing, communications and sustainability is considerable.  During his 25 years with Unilever (a global corporation with a turnover of £50 billion, 170,000 employees in 90 countries around the world), his experience has been truly global working across Africa, the Middle-East and Turkey, Australasia and Asia, Europe and the Americas. 

McDonald's HR experience has spanned leadership and talent development, organisation change, capability development with particular reference to marketing, and business transformation with purpose at its core.  Early in his career he was responsible for graduate recruitment and development, talent, acquisitions and development across Unilever’s emerging markets.  Under his leadership he developed Unilever’s global talent and leadership centre of expertise.  More recently he devoted his time, energy and effort to leading ground-breaking work where the HR function has played a central role in transforming Unilever’s business model with purpose at its core. 

Today McDonald is very much sought after as a speaker, inspiring and provoking organisations to put purpose and well-being at the centre of everything they do.  His experience in Unilever, under the pupilage of Paul Polman, allows him to provide very practical insights and to speak on how to go about truly embedding PURPOSE and address the taboo associated with well-being (particularly mental health) within a large global multi-national organisation.  With this experience comes some real learning on what may or may not work.  He recently had the opportunity to engage with Pope Francis on how we create a more sustainable and inclusive economy through his work with the Global Foundation. 

McDonald is devoting a significant amount of time to consulting to organisations, helping them define and embed Purpose as a driver of growth and profitability.  He was recently appointed as Strategic Advisor to the global PR and communications firm Burson-Marsteller in the area of Corporate Purpose and Organisation Change.  He too consults on how to address the stigma linked to depression and anxiety in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on raising awareness of these issues and providing some practical strategies as to how one might go about addressing this growing modern illness. 
He is a very active campaigner for breaking the stigma associated with Mental Health in the Corporate world and has participated in a number of BBC programmes and campaigns regarding this subject, as well as writing and producing articles for the Huffington Post, the Financial Times and HRrelated journals.  He previously convened a meeting at No 10 Downing Street with David Cameron and CEOs from Footsie 100 Companies to address their role and agree actions to break stigma in the corporate world.  He too provided some support to the Royal Foundation (Princes William, Harry and Kate) in their mental health campaign. 

McDonald is a co-founder of a network called 'Minds@Work', which has grown from 14 members to over 1000 in two years. Its purpose being to inspire and equip individuals to break the stigma of mental ill health in the organisations they work in. He has also recently been appointed as an Advisor to the Global Mental Health Campaign and has been asked to join the Prince’s Trust Youth Opportunity Taskforce with the purpose of creating change that will unlock the potential in the UK’s youth. 

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