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Social Responsibility And Performance Of Unilever Corporation Environmental Sciences Essay

Info: 1999 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 1970 in Environmental Sciences

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Consumers today are progressively watchful and conscious of social performance undertaken by large corporations on how they conduct their business activities. As we all know, social performance of a corporation is heavily stressed upon and people in general have high expectations on of a company’s corporate social performance (CSR) (Golob, Lah and Janccaroniccaron 2008). Let’s not forget that whenever a business operates, it will somehow bring both positive and negative impact towards society. Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch multinational corporation that owns many of the world’s consumer products brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products also faces consequences for their business operation while portraying social performance in the society. This assignment will talk about the Corporate Social Responsibilities of Unilever towards the environment. Corporate social Responsibilities are the responsibilities of an organization toward the society to meet the standard of ethics towards investors, customers, employees, business partners, local communities, the environment and society at large. (Berkhout 2005)


Unilever is the first Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Company who adopts paper sourcing policy to meet sustainability goals. This means that the company is trying to source all its products, paper and board packaging from a sustainably managed forests or recycled material within a clearly time frame. (Anne Marie Mohan 2010) Sustainable paper and board packaging sourcing policy are one of the Unilever’s dedications to double the size of the business in the mean time trying to reduce the environmental impact. The policy outlines the company’s goal to work with its suppliers to source 75% of its paper and board packaging from sustainably managed forests or from recycled material by 2015, increasing to 100% by 2020. (Raz Godelnik 2010) For the company’s requirements for paper from virgin sources, preference will be given to supplies delivered through the Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme. Unilever also accept other national schemes under the framework of international Forest Management Certification standards, provided they comply with the Policy’s Implementation Guidelines. The move means the logos of the acceptable forest management certification schemes will begin to appear on the packaging of Unilever’s portfolio of brands as progress is made toward reaching the target, and in order to increase consumer awareness and promote the expansion of certified forests in the world. As such it is important that Unilever promote sustainable forestry practices and help combat deforestation and climate change through the responsible sourcing of these materials. (Anne Marie Mohan 2010)

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Another important part which Unilever practice to protect the environment is the Unilever’s water approach Sustainable Water Integrated Catchment Management (SWIM) principles. The SWIM principles is developed with the help of UK sustainability organization forum for the future. Water is vital to all sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and also human consumption. The SWIM principles include a useful approach to help Unilever and Unilever’s partners to make sure that the community water partnerships they engage in are effective and successful. Unilever had adopted four villages along the Brantas River when the Clean Brantas Project was launched in July 2001. Unilever had work corporately with the NGOs and government agencies to improve the sanitation system recycling, tree replanting and environmental awareness. As a result of these initiatives, the river now can generates income for the villages through small-scale fish farming and cultivation of Java Noni fruit crops for export. (Catherine Dowdney n.d)

An important part of Unilever’s approach to water is our Sustainable Water Integrated Catchment Management (SWIM) principles, which were developed with the assistance of the UK sustainability organisation Forum for the Future. These recognise that competing demands for water – for agriculture, manufacturing and human consumption – and the need to sustain a healthy environment mean that society needs to adopt a more integrated approach to water management. The SWIM principles incorporate a practical approach to helping Unilever and our partners ensure that the community water partnerships we engage in are effective and successful.

As part of the Clean Brantas Project launched in July 2001, Unilever Indonesia has adopted four villages along the Brantas River. The company works in partnership with these communities, a local university, NGOs and government agencies to improve environmental awareness, sanitation systems, waste management and recycling, tree planting and housing development along the riverbank. As a result of these initiatives, the river now generates income for the villages through small-scale fish farming and cultivation of Java Noni fruit crops for export. It is hoped that the Village Adoption Programme will be expanded by other local companies to include more villages along the river. (Catherine Dowdney n.d)

A Unilever plant in Ontario, Canada, has an ongoing campaign to improve energy efficiency to help manage rising and unpredictable energy prices. This plant produces margarine and vegetable oils products which require high energy expenditure costs. In order to achieve a 6% reduction of energy consumption per year the plant’s energy team has implemented and invest in new technology called a 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 converting to the RO system, the plant had consumed 13 million gallons less municipal water and 8% less natural gas. The plant also cut down 240,000 pound volume of chemicals into the sanitary sewer. As a result of consuming fewer chemicals, the environmental impact of producing and transporting them was reduced too. The RO system qualified the plant for a $50,000 incentive grant from the city of Toronto 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)

Unilever factories in South Africa had been starting to divert food waste to make compost used in community and reducing waste sent to landfill. Food-grade waste that was once sent to landfill is now helping fertilize the vegetables and provide an income for poor communities in South Africa. Under project Triple R (reduce, reuse, and recycle) that was launched in 2005, Unilever Foods factories in Pietermaritzburg and Durban (Avenue East and Fountain Park) send all their waste food material to municipal composting facilities. Between 2004 and 2006, Pietermaritzburg and Avenue East halved the amount of food waste sent to landfill, cutting waste disposal costs by a third. (Composting waste material for community gardens 2010.)

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In a separate initiative, Unilever Brazil has committed to recycle laminated packaging material such as toothpaste tubes. It has been working with five small companies to collect and find a use for the material. When food and drink pouches, sachets and toothpaste tubes are manufactured, small amounts of plastic are cut off and discarded. The waste material is combined with laminated consumer waste. It is mixed and ground down before being heated and compressed in special ovens. The material can be shaped in special molds or, once cooled down, cut into different sizes. It is used to make furniture and building materials that can be sold by the recycling companies involved, generating income and jobs. The first products to be made were roof tiles. Since then, the material has been used to create products such floor tiles, tables and chairs, some of which have been used by Unilever Brazil to equip other community projects. The project depends on a readily available supply of laminate material. Unilever has been encouraging consumers to recycle their laminated waste packaging at the community recycling stations. (Recycling consumer waste 2010)

At February 10, 2010 the California Air Resources Board penalize Unilever $1.3 million last month for illegal consumer products sales between 2006 and 2008. Conopco, Unilever’s parent company, sold, supplied and offered for sale in California more than 2.8 million units of deodorant body spray that failed to meet clean air standards for aerosol deodorants. The violations resulted in significant excess emissions from volatile organic compounds. These emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog.  Exposure to ozone can cause lung inflammation, impaired breathing, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and worsening of asthma symptoms.  Over 90 percent of Californians still breathe unhealthy air at some time during the year. Conopco cooperated in the investigation and will make two equal payments of $650,000 into the California Air Pollution Control Fund for projects and research to improve California’s air quality. (Dimitri Stanich 2010)

Surprise spot checks by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) found that multinational Unilever discharged waste containing banned chemical substances. Unilever ‘s plan in Hefei (Anhui), which manufactures well-known household brands such as Dove, Lux, Kellogg’s and Lipton, was fined 150,000 yuan and ordered to remedy the situation. The pipe suspected of carrying the substandard water was disabled, a chemical oxygen demand (COD) monitor was installed and water treatment facilities have been upgraded. The mainland’s rapid industrialisation has been pressing on at a huge environmental cost, with up to 70 per cent of its waterways polluted and air quality in its biggest cities among the world’s worst.

In March 2001, Greenpeace and Palni Hills Conservation Council reported that Hindustan Unilever (HUL), a subsidiary of Unilever, had allowed 7.4 tonnes of mercury contaminated glass waste from their thermometer factory to be dumped on a scrap yard about 3 km away from the factory. The exposure, which spurred 400 area residents as well as members of Greenpeace India to protest at the factory gates, marked the beginning of an ongoing saga of dishonesty and botched cover-up efforts by Unilever. They also warned that contaminated waste had been dumped behind the factory wall onto the slopes leading to Pambar Shola, an important and protected nature sanctuary. The factory was immediately shut down by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). Data later provided by the company estimated that over 17 years a total of 1.3 tonnes of mercury had leaked into the Shola forest, a type of high-altitude stunted evergreen forest peculiar to the Western Ghats of South India. A further 366 kg was estimated to have contaminated the soil on the factory premises. (Indo-Asian News 2003) It is commonly known that as little as 1 gram of mercury deposited annually in a lake can, in the long term, contaminate a lake spread over 25 acres to the extent that fish from the lake are rendered unfit for human consumption. Mercury, which Unilever is accused of handling without taking environmental or worker safety precautions, is a toxic metal that converts to deadlier forms such as methyl mercury when released into the environment. Mercury accumulates in the liver, kidneys, brain and blood and can cause birth defects and serious disorders of the nervous system and kidneys. (Nityanand Jayaraman n.d.)


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