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Develop a corporate social responsibility strategy

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Strategic Approach of Unilever

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Introduction

In the modern era, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become very important part of a business operations and activities. Further, organizations that remains committed to their corporate social responsibilities are able to enhance their image and reputation in the marketplace (Hopkins, 2012). It can be stated that accomplishment of CSR activities also results in boosting up employee engagement and attracting investors for long term growth and development. The present report explains .  The second part of this report highlights key recommendations which are provided upon Unilever's corporate social responsibility.

Brief profile of the company

Founded in the year 1930, Unilever is a British-Dutch multi-national consumer good company which operates in different nations of the world. At present the brand is offering wide range of products and services to its customers and its portfolio mainly includes personal care products, cleaning agents, food and beverages etc. In terms of revenue it can be stated that Unilever is third largest company in the world in consumer goods sector. Present Unilever is carrying out its business operations with more than 400 brands in different countries all across the globe. Apart from this, rather than looking only for higher profits and sales, the selected organization also seeks for making sustainable living commonplace.

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Current CSR strategy across national context

Unilever is considered as one of the largest fast moving consumer goods supplier and presently selling its products in more than 100 nations. At the carrying out its operations, the brand also lays emphasis on accomplishment of its corporate social responsibility. For this purpose, Unilever has adopted for a sustainable approach for growth and development. It also seeks for establishing long term relationship with all its major stakeholders such as employees, customers, government, suppliers, investors etc. Nowadays, the market in which Unilever is carrying out its operations has become highly competitive and it is operating with decentralized structure (Sharma, Sharma and Devi, 2011). This means for every nation, it has adopted different strategy to accomplish its corporate social responsibilities. The selected business organization has been able to meet or satisfy changing expectations of its customers at regular intervals. At the time of operating in any nation, it ensures that its activities or business practises do not have any kind of negative impact on people living in society. For this purpose, Unilever has adopted for an open policy to identify and assess social impact of all its activities. In nations such as UK, Unilever has formulated and implemented sustainable living plan which focuses on three key aspects which are improving health of people, enhancing livelihood and reducing negative impact on environment (Moon, 2014). The brand is also committed to its objective of improving health and hygiene of people in the nation with its products and services by the end of year 2020.  In order to lower down its environment impact, the brand focuses on areas such as water, sustainable sourcing, waste and greenhouse gases. On the other side of this, it can be said that Unilever is also taking care of all its staff members. It aims at establishing fairness at workplace and provide equal growth opportunities to women. Unilever's strategy in context to the CSR core competency is provided below as:

Voluntary – In last few years, many debates has been carried out on the topic that whether CSR activities for an organization are voluntary or they are considered as mandatory (Nikolaeva and Bicho, 2011). Unilever has always taken care of all its activities and has also exceeded the expectations of society. For example in developing nations such as India, its CSR activities focuses on elements such as improving access to sanitation which is quite beneficial for people living in the society. In products such as Ice cream, Unilever is using vanilla which has been certified as sustainable by Rainforest Alliance which is good for consumer health and well being. The band is also providing income boost education and training to farmers and growers which can help them in overall growth and development. Thus, it can be stated that the activities related to corporate responsibilities of Unilever are more of voluntary in nature instead of being mandatory.

Managing externalities- Businesses are required to make sure that there business practises do not have negative implications on society (Epstein and Buhovac, 2014). Unilever is managing its externalities with the help of different strategies and action plan. The brand is committed towards making a positive and long lasting impact on society and for this purpose it is carrying out wide range of activities. For example in developing nations such as Africa, Unilever is taking corrective measures and educating people regrading the cure and most effective treatment for diseases such as HIV/AIDS which is very common in Africa. Apart from this, Unilever is also working with small and medium entrepreneurs in Indonesia with the purpose of social growth and development. The organization is managing its social responsibility in the same manner as it is managing other aspects of its business practises.

Multiple stakeholder orientation – This element in six core competencies of CSR lays emphasis on taking care of stakeholders interest. Unilever has developed a unique approach in which it works with partnership with major stakeholder in order to achieve its objectives and carry out social development (Mirvis, 2011). Government, customers, suppliers, investors and employees are being encouraged to take part in the process of decision making. Generally research projects, symposia and surveys are the ways through which Unilever engaged its stakeholders. However, it can be argued that the brand is not carrying out such practises in its CSR activities in developed countries such as UK, USA.

Social and economic alignment – Many arguments and researchers has been carried out with an objective to identify whether corporate social responsibilities are carried out by social/economic objective or it is integration of both (Sustainable Living, 2016). For example researcher may explain that after implementing strategy such as sustainable living plan, Unilever profits and sales has increased to a great extent. However, it can be argued that the rise in sales and profits has been achieved by winning heart of customers and going beyond the expectations of all its major stakeholders (Mirvis, 2012).

Practise and values – Unilever has integrated all its corporate social responsibility with its business model and practise. This has supported the brand to carry out smooth flow of operations along with development of society. It has also integrated with UNICEF in Africa to cure children from iodine deficiency. In some under developed countries such as Bangladesh, Unilever has opened hospitals for health and well being. For protecting environment, the selected business enterprise focuses on saving water and energy. It also aims at the making all its manufacturing units and plants as ISO certified (Unilever's approach to corporate social responsibility, 2000). In developed nations such as USA, its personal and home care division has been able to lower down  consumption of energy. However, it can be argued that even after lowering down energy consumption, Unilever still managed to get 25% rise in its manufacturing which can be considered as outstanding (Global challenges and local action, e.d).

Beyond philanthropy- In order to accomplish all its corporate social responsibilities, Unilever has adopted for a strategic approach. Further, its activities, tasks and business models are being reviewed at regular intervals and changes are also carried out as per need and requirements.

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Theoretical concept in CSR

It can be stated that the Husted and Allen's 7 step model is very effective for developing strategies related to CSR. According to the model, Unilever is required to focus on 7 major stages. First of all the brand needs to carry out adequate analysis of social issues faced by nations and identify competitive environment of the same (Wilburn and Wilburn, 2013). In the next stage, Unilever needs to determine whether its resources are capable enough to capitalize opportunities prevailing in the nation. Other than this, identification of social needs in market is another important area which needs to be taken care of by the brand. In situations where Unilever is required to acquire any new resources, the company needs to determine cost of the same. Other than this, effective plans for capitalization of opportunities is another important area upon which the brand needs to focus. On the basis of all above mentioned stages, a plan will be developed and implemented by Unilever. The final stages of 7 step model is linked with evaluating Unilever's performance and taking corrective measures on the basis of the same.

Unilever India UK
Community ndia is considered as one of the fastest growing economies in the world and here, Unilever has adopted for approach which focuses on empowering communities. The brand has launched a sustainable living plan by the name of PRABHAT and through this plan it aims at improving health and well being of people in India. In UK, Unilever approach is to empower women for the growth and development of people and society. Here, employment opportunities are provided to women and the brand also deliver safe and healthy products to its customers.
Environment In developing countries such as India, the brand has developed an effective approach for environmental protection. This includes procurement of organic farm products for food process, developing rain water system, establishment of water reservoirs in villages (Corporate social responsibility policy, 2016). In UK, Unilever has developed plans for protection of biodiversity. Here, the company is also providing variety of services related to ecosystems and natural capital. The approach used in UK is of growing business with protecting biodiversity.
Workplace The organization has developed a global strategy which lays emphasis on establishing fairness at workplace. For this purpose, a sustainable and healthy work environment is provided to employees of Unilever India. At the time of carrying out its operations, the brand has integrated principles of human rights in its business models. Practices in UK also aims at eliminates issues such exploitation of employees and discrimination at workplace.

Recommendation

In the modern era, the concept of CSR activities is growing with a very good pace and it is effective because it not only provides benefits to businesses but also results in growth of different stakeholders. Nowadays, government and different pressure groups are encouraging organizations to take care of their activities and operation. In last one decade, the activities of businesses has emerged as major threat to both environment and the people living in society. From the above carried out analysis of Unilever, it has been found by researcher that the brand has always taken measures to meet its responsibilities towards society and stakeholders. For this purpose, the brand is carrying out different types of activities and actions plans in various countries. Further, it can be also stated that the approach of community, environment and workplace development of Unilever differs from one nation to another. There are certain similarities in its CSR approach but they way those approaches has been implemented, differs from each other. In order to further enhance its approach to CSR, some recommendations provided to Unilever are mentioned below as:

Concentration of CSR efforts- It can be recommended that it is more beneficial for Unilever to concentrate on efforts related to accomplishment of corporate social responsibilities. For every company, resources such as time and money are available in limited amount and therefore effective utilization of those resources is essential for long term growth and success. At the time of concentrating on CSR efforts, it is required by Unilever to clearly identify the core areas upon which it can work. This can include areas such as environment, community, workplace etc. It can be suggested that after identification of area and issues related to the same, effective CSR activities can be planned and implemented by Unilever.

Transparency- It is also recommended that Unilever should develop transparency in terms of providing required information to all its stakeholders. This will not only enhance stakeholders trust but will also contribute in long term success of Unilever. At present, the brand is facing very tough competition in the fast moving consumer goods industry. Therefore, bringing up more transparency in existing flow of information and management will support Unilever in accomplishment of its corporate responsibilities in the best possible manner. Providing clear information to customers, employee, investors and other stakeholder will help in making Unilever more responsible toward environment.

Community development- It has been analysed by the present research that Unilever is carrying out community development programs in developing and under developed nations of the world. This has enhanced overall brand image of Unilever to a great extent and it has also contributed in long term growth of the same. However, it can be recommended that by forming partnership with different non profit organizations and charitable trust, the brand can increase the rate of its community development. Even in developed nations, it can be suggested that Unilever should work for different social causes in case of requirements. It can be stated that even developed nations needs support in situations of natural disasters or calamities. Therefore, such type of programs can be also carried out by Unilever in developed nations of the world in the future.

Employee relation – Corporate social responsibilities of a business enterprise not only ends with social and environment development. Organizations are also responsible for growth and development of all their respective staff member. From the above carried out study on approach of Unilever of managing its CSR activities, it has been analysed that the brand is focusing on aspects such as discrimination and women empowerment. However, it can be recommended that in the future, it can develop strict policies related to minimum wages, work place regulations, health and safety of workers etc. This recommendation will support Unilever to satisfy or meet all its major responsibilities towards one of the most important stakeholders which are employees. Furthermore, open  communication process can be developed where staff members can be encouraged to provide feedback, suggestions and views regrading how the organization can carry out its   corporate social responsibilities in the best possible manner.

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Innovate- In the above carried out study, it has been already discussed that there are lots of social, environment and workplace development programs which has been carried out by Unilever. It can be recommended that in the future, Unilever can start involving its external and internal stakeholders in such kind of program. Mass media channels such as newspaper, television and internet can be used by the company to inform stakeholders such as customers about its upcoming CSR activities. Here, Unilever can also invite customers and investors to become part of those activities carried out. This will help in enhancing relation with stakeholders and will benefit the brand in several manners.

Operations- It can be recommended that flexible business operations and CSR activities should be developed by Unilever. The rationale behind this is that such kind of operations will support the brand to easily carried out changes or modification as per need and requirements. Furthermore, it is required by Unilever to carry out assessment of its existing policies and CSR activities at regular intervals. This will support in finding out key areas which needs to be improved by the brand. It is suggested that on the basis of need and requirements of society, environment and workplace, Unilever should make changes in its CSR activities and practises.

Conclusion

From the above carried out report, it can be concluded that Unilever is one of the leading brand in fast moving consumer good industry of the world. At the time of carrying out its operations, the organization has always ensured that its activities and business practises do not have negative impact on environment or people living in society. Unilever's approach to its corporate social responsibility can be termed as one of the major factor which has contributed in the company's growth and success. From the above study, it can be inferred that Unilever has adopted for different approaches to CSR for different countries where it is carrying out its operations. Other than this, it can be also concluded that the organization practices for well-fare of society and environment are adequate. By working upon above mentioned recommendations, Unilever will be able to carry out more effective practises in the future. It can be inferred that the company has emerged as an example for other business regarding how corporate social responsibilities can be carried out in the best possible manner..

References

  • Epstein, M.J. and Buhovac, A.R., 2014. Making sustainability work: Best practices in managing and measuring corporate social, environmental, and economic impacts. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Hopkins, M., 2012. Corporate social responsibility and international development: is business the solution?. Earthscan.
  • Mirvis, P., 2011. Unilever’s drive for sustainability and CSR—Changing the game. Organizing for sustainability. 1. pp.41-72.
  • Mirvis, P., 2012. Employee engagement and CSR. California Management Review. 54(4).  pp. 93-117.
  • Moon, J., 2014. Corporate social responsibility: A very short introduction. OUP Oxford.
  • Nikolaeva, R. and Bicho, M., 2011. The role of institutional and reputational factors in the voluntary adoption of corporate social responsibility reporting standards. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. 39(1). pp.136-157.
  • Sharma, S., Sharma, J. and Devi, A., 2011. Corporate social responsibility: the key role of human resources management. Human Resource Management: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities. 9.
  • Wilburn, K. and Wilburn, R., 2013. Using global reporting initiative indicators for CSR programs. Journal of Global Responsibility. 4(1). pp.62-75.
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