Unilever’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy contributes to the strength of the consumer goods business and its brands. According to Archie Carroll’s theory, companies have social responsibilities to stakeholders. At the same time, stakeholders significantly affect business performance. In the case of Unilever, these stakeholders include consumers, employees, investors, suppliers, and communities. The company’s corporate citizenship and social responsibility strategy prioritizes these stakeholders, with consideration for business and market conditions, such as the ecological and social trends noted in the PESTLE/PESTEL analysis of Unilever. As a major firm in the global consumer goods market, Unilever utilizes its corporate responsibility strategy as a supporting approach to maintaining its industry position and business sustainability.
An effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy adds to Unilever’s efforts for a sustainable business in the consumer goods industry. Stakeholders’ interests are satisfied through appropriate approaches that ensure holistic corporate citizenship and responsibility fulfillment. Unilever’s mission statement and vision statement provide a foundation for programs and goals for corporate citizenship, business ethics, green operations, and stakeholder management.
Unilever’s Stakeholder Groups & CSR Initiatives
Unilever implements a systematic strategy to fulfill its corporate social responsibilities. This strategy supports the company’s corporate citizenship ideals, especially with regard to satisfying the expectations and interests of consumers as stakeholders. For example, Unilever’s CSR prioritization puts consumers at the top. Business sustainability is also maintained through this strategy. Such a corporate social responsibility strategy addresses the interests of the following stakeholder groups, arranged according to their significance in Unilever’s consumer goods business:
- Consumers (highest priority)
Consumers (Highest Priority). Unilever’s corporate social responsibility strategy assigns the highest priority to consumers. These stakeholders’ interests are focused on product quality and price, as well as the environmental impact of the consumer goods business. Consumers are significant because they directly determine Unilever’s profits. For example, satisfied consumers increase the company’s revenues from repeat sales. The corporate social responsibility strategy satisfies these interests through extensive innovation processes and quality assurance policies for the diverse product mix described in Unilever’s marketing mix or 4Ps. The company’s CSR strategy also addresses the demands of this stakeholder group for business sustainability. For instance, Unilever continues to enhance its production processes’ environmental footprint. As a result, an effective image of corporate citizenship is created to influence consumer perception. These corporate social responsibility efforts suggest that Unilever maintains its competitive position in the consumer goods market partly by satisfying consumers’ various expectations regarding sustainability and corporate citizenship.
Employees. Unilever considers employees as the second priority in its corporate social responsibility strategy. The importance of these stakeholders is in their influence on organizational performance in the consumer goods industry. Employees are interested in competitive compensation and holistic career development. For example, suitable HR policies for work-life balance help satisfy workers’ needs. Unilever’s corporate social responsibility strategy addresses these interests through high compensation that effectively competes against other employers in the labor market. In addition, the Agile Working program addresses these stakeholders’ interest in holistic career development. In this program, Unilever’s CSR approach includes flexibility for some employees to work remotely. This program also contributes to the company’s sustainability efforts by reducing employees’ travel, thereby ensuring corporate citizenship fulfillment. Moreover, the consumer goods company considers workplace safety, healthful work practices, and related concerns in the workplace. Thus, Unilever satisfies this stakeholder group’s interests through a multi-pronged approach to corporate social responsibility.
Investors. Investors are given the third priority in Unilever’s corporate social responsibility strategy. This stakeholder group is interested in the financial performance of the consumer goods business. For example, higher revenues and profitability increase investors’ satisfaction and confidence in the company. Investors are significant in influencing the capital available to fund Unilever’s business. The company addresses these stakeholders’ interests and the corresponding corporate responsibility through continuing business expansion. For instance, a history of acquisitions to ensure dominance in the consumer goods market characterizes Unilever’s intensive growth strategies. Such a CSR strategy also includes company efforts in product innovation for higher quality, and process innovation in Unilever’s operations management for better efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. The satisfaction of this stakeholder group increases Unilever’s success in addressing its corporate citizenship and business goals.
Suppliers. Unilever includes suppliers in its corporate social responsibility strategy. As stakeholders, suppliers are interested in profitable business relations with the company. This stakeholder group is significant in affecting Unilever’s business capacity, based on the availability of materials for producing consumer goods. As part of its CSR efforts, the company maintains the Partner with Purpose strategic program to ensure mutual benefit between the business and this stakeholder group. The program satisfies suppliers’ interests through extensive collaboration that supports Unilever’s and suppliers’ growth. For example, the program provides strategic plans to guide suppliers in growing together with the company. In this way, Unilever’s corporate social responsibility policies on sustainability also influence suppliers’ business activities, thereby maximizing the benefits of corporate citizenship.
Communities. As stakeholders, communities are included in Unilever’s CSR strategy. Communities’ interests encompass environmental protection and community development. This stakeholder group significantly influences how consumers perceive Unilever. For example, the company is more likely to gain positive consumer confidence through community involvement. The Unilever Climate & Nature Fund is one of the company’s main corporate citizenship initiatives that satisfy these interests. The consumer goods company also funds community programs for sanitation, nutrition, and personal development. These corporate responsibility initiatives enable Unilever to contribute to community development and its own business sustainability. This stakeholder group provides positive feedback that boosts corporate and brand image, which is one of the competitive strengths noted in the SWOT analysis of Unilever. The resulting impact of such corporate social responsibility efforts on brand image translates to sales and attractiveness of consumer goods from the company.
Unilever’s CSR Performance in Addressing Stakeholders’ Interests
Unilever has commendable programs for fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities. The consumer goods company occasionally develops new CSR programs and corporate citizenship initiatives. The global reach of the company’s business partners, supply chain, and product distribution networks facilitates the large-scale positive impact of its CSR strategy. A strong market presence enhances the company’s performance for corporate citizenship. Unilever can use its strong brand image to raise consumer awareness about community needs. This approach emphasizes the need for public awareness to enhance the results of the consumer goods company’s corporate citizenship activities.
- Fatima, T., & Elbanna, S. (2023). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) implementation: A review and a research agenda towards an integrative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 183(1), 105-121.
- Park, J. G., Park, K., Noh, H., & Kim, Y. G. (2023). Characterization of CSR, ESG, and corporate citizenship through a text mining-based review of literature. Sustainability, 15(5), 3892.
- Unilever Climate & Nature Fund.
- Unilever PLC – Form 20-F.
- Unilever PLC – Our Strategy.
- Unilever PLC – Partner with Purpose.
- Unilever PLC – Planet & Society.