Unilever takes nuanced approach to CSR

01 December 2011

LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG group, believes brand owners should entrench corporate social responsibility in all aspects of their operations, instead of forming specialist units covering this area.

According to Keith Weed, the firm's chief marketing and commercial officer, charging a single team to handle issues such as sustainability and ethical matters was not the right response.

"We don't have a CSR department – if you have a CSR department, then it's an add-on," he said, as reported by Marketing Magazine.

Rather, Weed asserted that incorporating best practice and conduct into all aspects of Unilever's activity would yield the greatest efficacy, and help engage its staff.

"Sustainability is something we do from day to day. Employees who are engaged perform better – they need to be engaged in something and believe in something," he said.

More broadly, Weed asserted that market realities demanded a response from major manufacturers in order to drive growth and protect the planet.

"The only sustainable growth is consumer-demanded growth. Clearly, in a resource-strained world we need to think about environmental and social responsibility."

Earlier this year, Unilever rolled outs its Sustainable Living Plan, committing the company to halve the environmental impact of both its manufacturing and actual product usage on the part of consumers.

It also pledged to help improve the health and well-being of 1bn people around the world, and source all of its raw materials in an ethical way.

Unilever recently won the Grand Prix from the International Green Awards, reflecting both the advances it has made in this area and the potential held by the company to change society and business.

It was praised by the judges for a "comprehensive value chain approach", pursuing ambitious targets and boasting the kind of global scale which can influence corporate and customers habits at a much wider level.

"We are making solid progress towards these goals," said Karen Hamilton, vice president, sustainability.

Data sourced from Marketing Magazine; additional content by Warc staff