Target: Unilever CEO, Paul Polman
Goal: Thank Unilever for its dedication to sustainable and responsible business practices
When Lever Bros (which would merge with Unie Margarine to become Unilever during the tumult of the 1920s) was founded by soapmaker William Lever in 1885, its goal was “to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products.” This was long before the advent of corporate mission statements, but Unilever was already ahead of its time in caring for people as well as profits. It is now the third-largest consumer goods company in the world, and the legacy Mr. Lever left is enjoying a modern renewal in the form of his company’s Sustainable Living Plan.
The Sustainable Living Plan, launched in 2010, is intended to minimize Unilever’s ecological footprint while maximizing it’s “positive social impact.” The plan has three overarching goals: 1) to improve the health and well-being of consumers, 2) to reduce the environmental impact of the company and its products, and 3) to enhance the livelihoods of its employees. Specific targets include halving greenhouse gas emissions, sourcing all agricultural raw materials sustainably, and improving the hygiene of one billion people, all by 2020.
The company has achieved many accolades for this work, including a Gold Medal from the World Environment Center for Achievement in Sustainable Development, and a ranking of No. 1 Leader in Sustainability by a GlobalScan survey of sustainability experts. According to The Economist, Unilever is “the pre-eminent example of how to do capitalism responsibly” and has “the most comprehensive strategy of enlightened capitalism of any global firm.”
According to Unilever CEO Paul Polman, “We have always recognized the bigger role that businesses need to play, and now is the moment for Unilever to step up and expand efforts in key areas, driving transformational change where we know we can make the biggest impact.” In an era of outsourcing and conglomeration, global sustainability will be impossible to achieve without the input and buy-in of global corporations. Thank Unilever for embracing Corporate Social Responsibility and stepping up the green business game.
Dear Mr. Polman,
While the “Triple Bottom Line” has become a great buzzword over the last decade, very few companies have actually lived up to the ideals embodied in the concept. Unilever’s embrace of social and environmental sustainability is a crucial example of the potential of enlightened capitalism.
While globalization continues unabated and corporate greed wreaks havoc on communities and ecosystems around the world, the need for models of responsible corporate citizenship is dire. Thank you for leveraging Unilever’s impact into a healthier, greener future for all of us.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: M.M.Minderhoud via Wikimedia Commons