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Case Study Analysis: Unilever Company


Human resource professional plays a significant role in implementing sustainability strategies

for the organisation (Bates 2011). These strategies have a big impact on company’s work, its

total revenue and organisations public image. HR experts can help with giving formalized

structures to help operationalise sustainability inside an association (Maguire 2015). This

paper will review how “Unilever” can satisfy their sustainability guarantees by seeing how

certified its endeavours with respect to human resource (HR) sustainability activities are.

Also, it goes for talking about the degree to which these activities can be utilized in different

settings. To do this, this paper will first distinguish two noteworthy HR sustainability

activities, and afterward examine their legitimacy in a subsequent stage. In this manner, the

social result on the organization's HR will be examined.

Overview of Unilever

Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman in 2015 announced the financial result of 2014 stating that the

company sales growth decreased from 2.91% in 2014 to 2.11% in the first quarter of 2015.

Unilever’s HR trying to address this downfall initiated a strategy driven by Unilever

Sustainability Living Plan (USLP) under which the two parameters were majorly addressed:

environmental issues and social commitments. USLP will address Unilever’s greenhouse gas

and water waste and also impact caused by the suppliers and consumers of Unilever’s brands.

From agricultural growers to packaging to consumers, the USLP initiative will address all the

major factors adding to wastage and hence creating an un-sustainable environment. (The

guardian 2016). To effectively implement a sustainability initiative requires deep connection

within the corporation and ability to hit the right lever,” stated Pravin Malik (SHRM report

2011) and HR is at a position who can address all the issues. And hence role of HR to not just
build a strategy but a sustainable strategy to meet the objectives of the company, was really


Fig.1: Unilever Company; Source: https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/unilever-the-small-steps-



While detailing a 40% decrease in its own interior ozone harming substances (GHG)

outflows and a 32% drop in its water use, greenhouse gas produced per consumer had really

expanded by 5% since 2010, and water use per shopper had fallen by just 2.1%. CEO Polman

and a clear motive to meet the target of the esteem chain believing in a clear moto of never to

waste a crisis. The companies HR team believed that if the company sync consumers and

environment, and take responsibility of the society as well as the employees, then the targets

of the company can be achieved. USLP was initiated to achieve the compass vision. USLP

identified two main objectives regarding building a sustainable environment those have to

fulfilled by 2020.

Practice 1

The first main objective HR team identify was how to enable a billion people to improve their

wellbeing and prosperity. The company identified that there are food shortages, malnutrition

and climate change problems which the world is going through, and governments are not
taking any initiative to address such issues. Unilever saw potential that if the Company

address such issues, will get a competitive advantage. This would help the company build its

market reputation.

Practice 2

Second main objective of HR team was to find out a way to decrease the environment

impression of company’s products. Unilever delivered a portion of the world’s best notable

brands like Dove and Lipton, seems to comprehend that environmental change represents a

tremendous hazard to its business. Unilever has assessed that catastrophic events connected

to environmental change cost the organization $301M per year, or 6.1% of its net benefits

(Unilever 2016).

Fig.2: Deforestation caused for making of Unilever products; Source:




In order to achieve both of the objectives the company decided to create new techniques and

ways of doing business ensuring that the companies growth and objectives are meet at every

stage. In order to achieve their goal of enabling billion people to improve their wellbeing and

prosperity, the company believed that it was everyone’s responsibility to build a sustainable
world. USLP team started measuring company’s environment footprints. Intensive awareness

campaigns were launched both in the company and outside the company.

Practice 1

In order to achieve their first objective, the company took the following steps:

 The marketing team build a strategy around the campaign lunched under the tag line “Dirt

is Good”, when they found out that child’s vital development is very important. The

project aimed to give a positive message, inspiring mothers to let their children to play

outside, explore each dimensions, and get dirty, explaining that with dirt comes

development of a child. This the company knew is good their development, and help

their brand product like Persil/Omo/Surf Excel (detergents) increase its sales ( Bhatt


 In 2013, the HR formed 3 new USLP commitments: to maintain fairness at the workplace

(e.g., 99.9% of acquirement from providers focused on advancing crucial human rights by

2020), giving opportunities to women (enable to give jobs to 5.1 million ladies both

inside and outside Unilever by 2020), and to develop low-income communities (e.g.,

positively affect 5.6 million people by improving the livelihood of small land holder

farmers, small-scale retailers, and young entrepreneurs by 2020 (Federman 2016).

Practice 2

In spite of being one of the biggest manufacturers of business rural items, Unilever is focused

on fighting against environment footprint. The Unilever team decided to achieve this by:

 Reasonably source 100% of its crude materials by 2020 in order to decrease the

greenhouse gases like CO2 emission (Unilever 2016).

Fig.3: Unilever’s Greenhouse Gas Contribution; Source:



 Controlling deforestation- For instance, Unilever's sourced palm oil – an item used to

create numerous Unilever items, for example, dove cleanser and TRESemmé cleanser,

was recently provided from deforested estates in Asia (Federman 2016).


Practice 1

 In 2018, the organization empowered around 747,000 smallholder ranchers and 1.8

million little scale retailers to get to activities intending to improve their rural practices or

increment their wages.

 2018 we had contacted 1.25 billion individuals through their projects on handwashing,

safe drinking water, sanitation, oral wellbeing, confidence and skin mending (Unilever

Fig.4: Unilever Achievements in in human wellbeing; Source:


Practice 2

 Unilever in 2015 changed to maintainable palm oil providers. Unilever's endeavour to

know about its providers' practices and to guarantee that materials are discernible and

ensured have made the organization eliminated its number of providers and thereby save

input cost to a product.

 Unilever diminished the resources of assets utilized most famous things. While impelling

their Sunsilk chemical line in Latin America, Unilever saved 2,500 tons of plastic. This

decrease prompted 300 less trucks out and about every year, diminishing greenhouse

gases brought about by discharges. Unilever decreased CO 2 discharges by 39% per ton of

generation somewhere in the range of 2008 and 2015 (Unilever 2015)002E

Fig.5: Unilever as a leader in sustainability; Source:



Different context

Nowadays pioneers of private companies are just attempting to survive. For what reason then,

should they add a sustainability technique that could increase officially over-burden needs,

since supportability systems are about big business survival. Sustainability offers the two

dangers and open doors for small companies. But sooner or later every business have to give

attention to sustainability in order to stay in the race of their business as these days there is

pressure on companies on how they are tackling environmental and social concerns (Bates

2011). Every customer, government and employee are demanding transparency in the

product. It has been seen that addressing social issues and environmental issues, creating a

sustainable environmental, may it be in any sector: Pharma, manufacturing, transport, etc.,

have only helped in increasing the business and companies profit margin. So despite the fact

that the bigger organizations are in the sustainable spotlight presently, independent companies

have a lot to pick up by building up their own sustainable techniques (Maguire 2015). No
organization will probably escape the issues for long. Fortunately new IT stages and different

advancements is making it simple for private companies to participate in the worldwide talk.


Sustainability procedure ought not be a PR team’s responsibility, however ought to be fused

into a business'. In this association, HR should use sustainability to propel HR goals.HR team

of Unilever accounted and emphasized the advantages and importance of sustainability, took

charge to merge executive pay with climate change. This bold action caused many climate

experts to recognise Unilever as one of the industry leaders fighting against climate change,

which is evidenced by a study concluding that over 30.5% of industry experts chose Unilever

as a leader in sustainability. Unilever item being utilized 2.1 billion times each day, Unilever

needs to show that little regular activities can set aside extra cash for both the organization

and the client, while building a sustainable world.


Bates. S. 2011. HR has Key Role in Sustainability Strategy. Report Finds.

Bhatt. S. 2016. India in top 5 markets for ‘Dirt is Good’ portfolio: Unilever. Available at



Evans and Peter. 2013. Unilever Commits to Sustainable Palm Oil by End of 2014. The Wall

Street Journal.

Federman. E. 2016. Unilever: The Small Steps Necessary to Decrease a Large Footprint.

Goldenberg, J.Z., Yap, C., Lytvyn, L., Lo, C.K.F., Beardsley, J., Mertz, D. and Johnston, B.C.

2017. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile‐associated diarrhoea in adults

and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

The Guardian. 2016. Unilever unveils ambitious long term sustainability programme.

Available [online] at


Maguire. J. 2015. What is HR’s role in a sustainability strategy?

SHRM Report. 2011. HR Central to Organizations’ Sustainability Efforts. Available [online]



Unilever. 2015. Collective Action Summary of Progress. Available [online]

at https://www.unilever.com/Images/uslp-mobilising-collective-action-summary-of-progress-


Unilever. 2016. What is Climate Change? Available [online] at



Unilever. 2019. Our big goal improving health and wellbeing for more than 1 billion.