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Consumers today are progressively watchful and very particular with the social performance undertaken by all the large corporation on the behavior of the corporation conduct their operations. As we all know, social performance of a corporation is heavily stressed upon and the public have a high expectations on the company’s corporate social performance (CSR). (Golob, Lah and Janccaroniccaron 2008) For an Anglo-Dutch multinational corporation like UNILEVER that owns many of the world’s consumer products brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products also faces some consequences and some potential for the environment harm as their business operation. This assignment will be talking about the Corporate Social Responsibilities of Unilever and impacts in relation to the environment.
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On February 10, 2010 Unilever had been penalize and fined for $1.3 million by the California Air Resources Board for illegal consumer products sales between year 2006 and 2008. The Air Resources Board imposed a penalty on Unilever because of the fumes from the AXE Deodorant Bodyspray for men failed to meet the state’s clean air standard for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).(Unilever Axes Air Pollution) The deodorant spray had contaminated the air in California with the VOC used as a propellant. These emissions can cause ground-level- ozone or known as smog. When these emissions get in contact with the ozone, it can cause lungs irritation, lungs cancer, coughing and some other asthma symptoms. (Dimitri Stanich 2010) Till now almost 90% of the California citizens still breathe in unhealthy air.
Other than that, on March 2001 Hindustan Unilever (HUL), a subsidiary of Unilever had been caught red-handed when the Greenpeace and Palni Hills Conservation Councils uncovered a dumpsite which contain 7.4 tonnes of mercury waste from Unilever thermometer factory. (Nityanand Jayaraman n.d.) These highly toxic mercury wastes had polluted several populated tourist resort of Kodaikanal. Besides that, HUL also dumped behind the factory wall onto the slopes which leads to the protected nature reserve of Pambar Shola. According to the data provided by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) approximately 1.3 tonnes of toxic mercury had already leaked into the Pambar Shola sanctuary over 17 years. (Indo-Asian News 2003) The soil on the factory premises had also been contaminated by another extra 366kg of toxic mercury. As we all know with a little amount of mercury, such as 1gram, which set down annually in a lake can contaminate the lake which is as big as 25 acres in long term. After the mercury had been deposited for a extensive years, it will probably convert into a deadlier form from a toxic metal into methyl mercury and released into the environment. Any human being or animal which get in touch with the mercury will cause some severe disorder of the nervous system and also defects. (Nityanand Jayaraman n.d.)
Unilever had always been the largest soap and detergent producers and also held huge number serious cases about water pollution offences. For example, Crosfield Chemicals -Unilever Chemical Factory in Warrington had been fined £35000 because of leaking 50 tonnes of sulphuric acid into the sewage system during year 1990. (The Ethical Consumer Guide to Everyday Shopping n.d.) Also, in 1991, the Unilever Company was convicted for the water pollution offences by the River Purification Board. (Shashank Saxena 2009) Unilever factory was closed down for a period of three months because the contents of the sulphuric acids emission are above the World Health Organization(WHO ) limits.
The case for Unilever
Unilever is the first Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Company who takes up and implements paper sourcing policy in order to achieve the sustainability goals. This means that the company is trying to source all its products by using the materials which recycled and sources from a sustainably managed forest within a specific time frame. (Anne Marie Mohan 2010) Sustainable paper and board packaging sourcing policy are one of the Unilever’s main aim to increase and maximize the company business in the mean time trying to help the environment by reduce the impacts. Unilever is trying to approach with its suppliers to source 75% of its paper and board packaging from materials which are recycled or from forest which are well managed by year 2015; Unilever also try to push it to 100% by year 2020. (Raz Godelnik 2010) The company also delivered a preference to the Forest Stewardship Council certified which requirement for paper from virgin sources. Unilever will also accepts international schemes as long as it is under the framework of International Management Citification standards and they must follow the strictly the policy. Unilever it trying to gain awareness of the consumers and public that they are promoting a development of certified forest in the world. All the suppliers which pass through the scheme will appear on the packaging of Unilever’s brands. So as we all can see that Unilever is trying to promote a forestry practice which is more sustainable and in the mean time help to fight deforestation and climate change by the responsible of sourcing of these materials. (Anne Marie Mohan 2010)
Another important part which is Unilever practice to protect the environment is the Unilever’s water approach Sustainable Water Integrated Catchment Management (SWIM). (Catherine Dowdney n.d) The SWIN principle is developed with the help of UK sustainability organization. Water is vital to all sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and also human consumption. The SWIN principles include a useful approach to help Unilever and its partners to make sure that the community water partnership they engage in are effective and successful. Unilever had already adopted four villages along the Brantas River when the Clean Brantas Project was launched in July 2001.Unilever had also work corporately with the NGOs and other government agencies in order to further improve the process of sanitation system, tree replanting and environmental awareness. As a result of these hard works and initiatives, the river now can generate income for the villages through a small scale of fishing, farming and cultivation of Java Noni fruit crops for export. (Catherine Dowdney n.d)
A Unilever plant in Ontario, Canada, has an ongoing campaign to improve the energy efficiency in order to cut down on the rising and unpredictable energy consumption. This plant in Ontario produces margarine and vegetable oils products which require a high energy expenditure costs. In order to achieve a 6% reduction of energy consumption per year, the plant’s energy teams has implemented and invest in a new technology called reverse osmosis (RO) system that would enable an improvement in the efficiency of the steam plant operations. (Cost savings and reduced environmental impact through lower energy and water consumption 2009) By changing the previous system to the RO system, the plant had consumed 13million gallons less municipal water and also 8% less natural gas. The plant also cut down the 240,000 pound volume of chemical into the sanitary sewer. The city of Toronto grants $50,000 incentive to the plant because RO system qualified for decreased water consumption and a $14,000 incentive grant from the local gas utility. According to Unilever, the project has lead to the company reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.6 million tonnes as well as cutting other greenhouse gases. (Cost savings and reduced environmental impact through lower energy and water consumption 2009)
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Unilever factories in South Africa had been converting the food waste into compose to be used in the communities and also reducing the amount of waste to be sent to the landfill. In the past all the food waste was send to the landfill and dumped there but now is helping to fertilize the agricultural products and generate income for the poor in South Africa. When the project triple R( reduce, reuse and recycle) launched in 2005, all the Unilever Foods factories in Pietermaritzburg and Durban deliver all their waste materials to the municipal compositing facilities to be further process and used. During year 2004 and 2006, the amount of food waste sent to landfill in Pietermaritzburg and Durban was halved and the cost of disposal was also decreased by a third. (Composting waste material for community gardens 2010)
On the contrary, Unilever Brazil has devoted to recycle laminated packaging materials such as toothpaste tubes. It has start corporately working with other 5 small companies to collect and find a use for the materials. When food and drinking box, envelope and toothpaste tubes are manufactured, a small amount of plastic are cut off and removed. (Recycling consumer waste 2010) The waste material are collected and combined with a laminated consumer waste and compressed in a special oven. The materials can be shaped into different shapes and sizes. These substances can be used to produce or manufacture furniture and building materials. The first and ever product produce was food tiles, since then the materials has been used to manufacture products such as floor tiles, tables, chairs. Unilever Brazil had been using these materials to equip on the community projects. Unilever had been encouraging consumers to recycle their laminated waste packaging at the community recycling centers. (Recycling consumer waste 2010)
In conclusion, the social performance of Unilever in relation to the environment has been mixed. Although Unilever does good things to the environment, they also did some bad horrible things to the environment in India. As we all know the main objectives for all the business is to maximize the profit for their shareholders and stakeholders. So, what is the point that you take a good care of the environment but the company is making losses? If the company need to pollute it in order to make profit then just do it, but after that the company must remember to solve the pollution problems because it is the company’s main income. The society will forget all the company’s bad things when the company provides benefits for the public.
I believe that Unilever corporate social responsibilities are balance. They may be the one who pollute but in the mean time they are also the person who clean up all the mess and put it into original state.
( 1683 words)
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