Unilever is one of the largest packaged consumer goods companies specializing in hundreds of different brands. Unilever is based in Holland and the UK and is jointly owned by Unilever N.V and Unilever PLC. Both companies have the same board of directors but operate as a single entity and list there stock separately. In 2000, Unilever restructured their board of directors by electing new faces to the board and seeing other key members retire, like Jan Peelen and Robert Philips. Miles and Snow stated that there are four types of organizational strategies pursued by companies; Defenders, Prospectors, Analyzers and Reactors. Unilever are a company that uses the “Prospectors” organization type. Prospectors are organizations which almost continually search for market opportunities, and they regularly experiment with potential responses to emerging environmental trends, in particular when Vis was appointed to the Food Executive committee and began to emphasize more on environmental and sustainable development in response to changing trends and demands by consumers giving these consumers greater confidence. (Miles & Snow; pp29) In my discussion, the main types of organizational strategies and structures will be listed and how they have impacted on Unilever’s improved performance and growth in recent years.
Organizational strategies and structures, and there impact on Unilever’s performance
1. Identifying market opportunities:
A key part of an organizational strategy is to identify market opportunities by finding a niche or a gap in the marketplace that they can pursue to take their company ahead of all their competitors. An organization must be able to identify economic, strategic and behavioral considerations that provide early warning that change may be needed. It has been a key objective of Unilever to enforce and address environmental and social issues in their organization. The company started a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998 and continued forward from there after Jan-Kees Vis made a proposal to Ben de Vet after Vis was elected to the Foods Executive Committee. De Vet went along with this proposal and Unilever has been striving towards sustainability ever since. Unilever elected specific areas that they had a direct interest in like agriculture and fisheries and partnerships became central to Unilever’s approach. Back in 1998, Unilever began using life cycle assessment techniques with their products in order to find ways of reducing the environmental impacts of making, using and disposing their products. In 2005, Unilever extended their life cycle assessment beyond environmental impacts to broaden social and economic issues. By working through their brand, Unilever wanted to raise awareness of sustainability and integrate it in to their product design and innovation process. In the area of fisheries, Unilever pledged by 2005 it would purchase its fish exclusively from fisheries that compiled with MSC certification criteria and would be allowed to carry a MSC logo on their products. All of Unilever’s efforts link closely to consumer confidence. Vis was quoted in an interview as saying “Marinating consumer confidence in the quality and safety of our goods is absolutely necessary. What do you think would happen if tomorrow people lost confidence in our product? It would be disastrous”. Building up awareness of Unilever’s products through sustainability and social and environmental issues has greatly enhanced their reputation as a company. In 2007, the fourth quarter was a strong finish to a good year. 2007 marks the third successive year of accelerating sales growth and came with an underlying improvement in margin. This is clear evidence that Unilever’s strategy of focusing resources on faster growing and profitable segments such as “Environmental” and “Social” issues is succeeding. (Ethical & Environmental...