Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a crucial part for businesses in the twenty- first century. The CSR concept has largely been associated with sustainable development; which is a responsible pattern of using resources to meet present needs without compromising resource bases for future generations (Eweje, 2014) ). Businesses involve themselves with social responsibility due to different intents. These intents could include public expectations, ethical obligation, long run profits, image building, environment betterment, stockholders interest among others ( Veselinova & Samolikov, 2018) . This report will look into Unilever global CSR plan and how the company’s leadership and strategic plan has influenced corporate responsibility, governance and organisational behaviour.
Background of organisation
Unilever is a British-Dutch multinational consumer goods company operating in more than 190 countries globally. It has co-headquarters in Netherlands, United Kingdom, London and Rotterdam (Unilever, nd). Unilever owns and distributes over 400 brands with a product range including food, beverages, personal care and cleaning agents. The company has about 169, 000 employees across the global with 57per cent of their business being in emerging markets ( Veselinova & Samolikov, 2018; Ulilever, n.d). Unilever runs 264 manufacturing units globally which are all aligned with the company responsibility values of safety, quality, efficiency and environmental impact. 50 per cent of raw materials used in manufacturing of unilever are agricultural and forestry produce ( Veselinova & Samolikov, 2018). Over the years, Unilever has shifted it business strategy to incorporate sustainability through corporate social responsibility while promoting business growth (Unilever, n.d).
Definition and Understanding of ethics and corporate social responsibility
The social responsibility of business includes the economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic expectations that society has on organizations at a given point in time. (Carroll, Brown & Buchholtz, 2018). This means that a business has the responsibility to produce and sell products at a fair price to generate profits; comply with basic laws, regulation and policies set to uphold fair practice and ethics and to engage in social activities that impact society (Carroll et al, 2018, p37)
Ethical corporate responsibility is a business strategy that can be used to reduce risk, build a positive reputation and maximise profits by taking all stakeholders ( consumers, shareholders, employees, governments, society) into confidence ( The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, 2015). In Business, ethics refers to moral principles and values (fairness, justice and compliance practices) employed in the company’s decision making, governance and codes of conduct as it attempts to interact successfully with its major stakeholders. (Goel & Ramanathan, 2014; Carroll et al., 2018). However, in highly diverse work environments with different groups, morals and global operations, it can be difficult to discern the right cause of action in some situation. The moral and ethics company code should therefore assert how every individual stakeholder must be handled (Singh & Singh, 2013).
Applicability of approach
Organisations have a responsibility for the Impacts of their decisions and activates to the people (society), planet (environment) and profits ( its own economic prosperity) ( The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, 2015). Unilever, under the leadership of CEO Paul Polman, have incorporated the Triple-bottom line approach by shifting it business model to sustainability through the launch in 2010, Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in 2010. The USLP is a blueprint to enhancing profitable growth and reputation by being responsible to the social impact and reduce environmental footprint. It is anchored on three primary strategic goals:
i. Improving health and wellbeing of more than one billion people by 2020
By the end of 2016, Unilever had impacted around 538 million people through hygiene and health programs.
ii. Reducing environmental impact by their products by halve whilst growing the business by 2030.
This goal has been achieved through climate change advocacy and food security (Unilever Sustainable living Report Hub, nd). However, Unilever sustainability commitment is challenged by the incorporation of the set strategies through the supply chain, where they have limited control (Veselinova & Samolikov, 2018) .
iii. Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people whilst growing the business by 2020.
This goal focuses on driving fairness in the workplace, increasing opportunities for women and inclusive business. By year 2016, Unilever had reach 650, 000 small-scale farmers, implemented the United Nations principles on business and human rights and had a 46% of their management team as women (Unilever Sustainable living Report Hub, nd).
To achieve these goals, Unilever has localized objectives and implementation plans for each business unit and for each country in which it operates (Unilever, nd).