UNILEVER, arguably one of the biggest multi-national consumer goods companies in the world, takes its corporate social responsibility (CSR) very seriously.
As the world’s largest manufacturer of ice cream and the owner of 400 different brands, including Wall’s, AXE, Dove and Sunsilk, Unilever plays a vital role in creating a sustainable future for all of us around the globe.
And, as one of the largest media buyers in the world and a multi-national with operating companies and factories on every continent except Antarctica, Unilever has developed and executed unique CSR programmes that benefit the local community.
Last year, in tandem with Global Handwashing Day, more than 400 employees of Unilever (M) Holdings Sdn Bhd took to the streets to encourage as many Malaysians as possible to pledge to wash their hands with soap before eating.
The employees were sent to several high-traffic locations throughout the Klang Valley including KL Sentral, Columbia Asia Hospital in Puchong and selected shopping malls.
Lifebuoy, a Unilever brand and one of the world’s leading germ-protection soap brands, spearheaded the activity as part of its “Malaysia, Jom Lebih Sihat!” campaign, an on-going social mission to promote a healthier Malaysia.
In addition to obtaining pledges on the ground, Lifebuoy had also invited ‘netizens’ to make their pledges via its Facebook page.
The employees’ aim was to collect at least 50,000 pledges, upon which Lifebuoy would contribute RM10,000 towards improving toilet facilities in selected schools throughout the Klang Valley.
“It is good to inspire people,” said Unilever Malaysia chairman and managing director Rakesh Mohan.
“Even though it is challenging, it is important to create something positive,” he added.
The unique CSR initiative was in line with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), specifically its commitment to improving the health and well-being of local communities.
The USLP is a programme set out to grow in line with Unilever’s new purpose of making sustainable living more commonplace.
“The lens of sustainable living is helping us to drive brands that have a strong purpose in people’s lives, to reduce costs and take waste out of the system and to drive innovation that will make a positive difference to the environmental and social challenges facing us all.
“The plan pushes us to think ahead, reducing risk and making the business more resilient in the long term,” said Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman in the 2012 progress report.
Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan has three big goals to achieve by 2020 — reduce environmental impact and source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably, to improve health and well-being and enhance the livelihoods of people across the value chain.
According to the report, Unilever is accelerating the integration of sustainability into its brands by developing its own USLP ambition. The Brand Imprint model enables Unilever to take a 360° view of the social, environmental and economic impacts of brands and — among other outputs — triggered Lipton’s decision to source its tea sustainably, something Malaysians take very seriously.
Last year, Lipton, the world’s No. 1 tea brand, launched a nationwide celebration with the “I’m a Malaysian, Teh Tarik is MY National Drink” campaign. The campaign, which started on Aug 31, was a call-to-action to unite all proud Malaysians to cement teh tarik as Malaysia’s national beverage.
“This is a natural process where we are creating the next level of awareness. We are bringing everything together,” said Rakesh.
“Nowadays, even employees are looking to work for a company that takes sustainability seriously and we also encourage our people to develop new ideas that would make the world a better place,” Rakesh said.
Under USLP, factory employees can apply for investment for their ideas which are evaluated on the basis of environmental benefit and financial return.
In 2012, more than 600 projects were identified and the best 100 are currently being implemented. Their combined benefits will deliver savings of around 1% to Unilever’s global energy and water use and achieve an average pay back of under two years.
Unilever has set several benchmarks to achieve by the year 2020.
“We will use our toothpaste and toothbrush brands and oral health improvement programmes to encourage children and their parents to brush day and night. We aim to change the behaviour of 50mil people by 2020,” USLP pledges.
Besides this, Unilever also aims to make safe drinking water available and affordable to 500mil people through its Pureit in-home water purifier in seven years.
And, last but not least, by 2020, Unilever plans to double the proportion of its portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines.
“This will help hundreds of millions of people to achieve a healthier diet and, last year, the majority of our products met, or were better than, benchmarks based on national nutritional recommendations.
“Our commitment goes further — 18% of our portfolio by volume met the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines,” USLP stated in its 2012 progress report.
Unilever performed well in 2012, despite difficult economic conditions. Company turnover increased by 10.5%, taking Unilever through the ‚50bil (RM256.7bil) barrier.
Emerging markets grew for the second consecutive year by more than 11% and now account for 55% of total business. Personal Care and Home Care showed double-digit growth, in line with its strategic priorities.