The Impact of Social Performance - Unilever and Its Environmental Responsibility

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The impact of social performance - Unilever and its environmental responsibility

Unilever is one of the world largest multinational companies, merged by British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie in 1929, which is related with lives of over two billion people every day mainly in the area of food and beverage, home care and personal care. The corporate purpose of Unilever indicates that they require "the highest standard of corporate behavior towards everyone we work with, the communities we touch, and the environment on which we have an impact (Purpose & principles 2010)". This corporate purpose highlights the importance of social performances and the interactions with their shareholders.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly essential in the global environment (Wilburn 2009, 111), especially for large multinational companies who confirm that making contributions to shareholders is the driving force to increase the value of the corporations. Unilever claims that corporate social responsibility is at the heart of its business (Cescau 2007). “We've always believed in the power of our brands to improve the quality of people’s lives and in doing the right thing. As our business grows, so do our responsibilities (Our vision 2010)” Unilever has made a clear direction about their vision. These years Unilever has focus on building their corporate image with full consideration and improvement of social performance, varying from sustainable development, safety of food, to welfare of labor and other social performance beyond those areas, but there are still some problems existed that need much more improvement to do . The aspect of environment of Unilever will be illustrated amply in this paper to indicate the impact of social performance to the corporation.

Positive elements of performance

In the current trend, Unilever has observed that standards of social responsibility set by customers stimulate the corporations to undertake much more responsibility than before, which in the long term, will achieve a success. They still believe that the real success for them means acting with the highest standards of the corporate performance towards not only their consumers and employees but also the whole society and world (FCSR members 2010). As a member of the Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (FCSR), Unilever launched or participated in an ever-growing range of initiative activities to protect environment, source sustainable supplies of raw materials, and support local communities more over the years (FCSR members 2010).  When it narrowed down to the aspect of environment, Unilever still insists on the perception of sustainable development, in exploring the raw materials, dealing with the waste, investigating the recipes and testing the productions. “As globalization accelerates, and as the limits of the planet’s resources are reached, large companies and brands will increasingly be held to account on the sustainability of their business practices” mentioned by Cescau (2007), the Group Chief Executive of Unilever, Unilever is committed to making continuous improvements in the balance of making profit and contributing to the environment, as well as to the longer-term goal of developing a sustainable business (Dizon et al.2008). It devotes working in partnership with others to rise up the environmental awareness, increase understanding of environmental issues, promote environmental protection, and disseminate good practice (Dizon et al.2008).

In the area of family care with Unilever’s products, many small changes in consumer behavior are made scalable, resulting in a sustainable and significant improvement, even though there are around 125 billion washes occurring each year (Ahlering 2010). It was reported that “since 1995, these changes have translated into a 44% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing process, a 70% reduction in waste, and...
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