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  • Hugo Walker

Unilever and Accenture collaborate to drive generative AI

Unilever has entered into a strategic partnership with Accenture to explore new avenues for scaling generative AI. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) giant aims to harness Accenture's AI and data practice, which has seen investment to the tune of $3 billion over the past three years. Part of this development is the creation of a switchboard tool which allows users to apply a variety of AI models to business dilemmas. 

The collaboration will happen at Unilever’s brand new R&D centre: Horizon3 Labs in Toronto, which opened in November. Toronto also hosts one of Accenture’s AI studios.

Generative AI can drive rapid marketing updates — something key to Unilever’s business as a leading FMCG firm. For example, AI can be used to auto-update product descriptions on websites to match trending keywords. Even more impressively, AI can drive product development itself. Unilever recently leveraged generative AI to develop and launch its product Sunsilk Onion & Jojoba Oil Shampoo in around 3 months, after onion and jojoba were recognised as popular shampoo ingredients. In a world of fast-moving trends, being able to respond quickly — not only in marketing but in the product itself — is a silver bullet for business. 

“We are excited about building on our long-standing partnership with Accenture to step up our innovation agenda and drive value for our consumers, retailers, and distributors,” said Steve McCrystal, chief enterprise and technology officer at Unilever. “Horizon3 Labs is a unique platform for collaboration and co-creation, and we look forward to working with Accenture and other partners to take our investment in AI to a new level.”

Chair & CEO at Accenture, Julie Sweet, said: “This collaboration builds on our relationship of more than three decades with Unilever, which continues to raise the bar as a digital powerhouse and industry leader. The combination of Horizon3 Labs’ disruptive innovation with Accenture’s deep expertise and strong ecosystem partnerships will help Unilever scale AI and generative AI more rapidly and responsibly across its business and discover new pathways to value.”

The partnership is mutually beneficial, with Unilever benefitting from access to Accenture's pool of data and AI experts. Accenture, in turn, is doubling its AI workforce to 80,000 through hiring, acquisitions, and training initiatives.

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