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Lifebuoy soap's market performance is declining. The new Global Brand VP must find means to improve it and influence people's health globally. The new CEO of the company implemented Unilever Sustainable Living Program (USLP), a new program with bold social objectives. With the brand's largest market in India, the category manager in India, Sudir Sitapiti, failed to implement the program timely.
Christopher A. Bartlett
Harvard Business Review (914417-PDF-ENG)
May 27, 2014
Case questions answered:
Case study questions answered in the first solution:
- Examine Paul Polman’s Unilever Sustainable Living Program (USLP) strategy in the light of your understanding of strategic CSR as different from responsive CSR.
- Which behavior change options do you think Sudhir Senapati should agree to implement? Should he be worried about Samir Singh’s priorities for meeting the targets of USLP?
Case study questions answered in the second solution:
- What do you think of Paul Polman’s Unilever Sustainable Living Program (USLP) strategy? How realistic is it to overlay USLP’s bold sustainability goals over financial objectives? What implications does it have for middle managers like Singh and frontline managers like Sitapati?
- As Sitapati, what decision would you make regarding the three handwashing behavior change programs that have been proposed? What risks and benefits are associated with each?
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Unilever's Lifebuoy in India: Implementing the Sustainability Plan Case Answers
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Question 1: Examine Paul Polman’s Unilever Sustainable Living Program (USLP) strategy in the light of your understanding of strategic CSR as different from responsive CSR.
According to the founder of the Lever Brothers, William Hesketh Lever, “Nothing can be greater than a business, however small it may be, that is governed by conscience”. The new CEO Paul Polman believed in the idea of doing well by doing good. Paul Polman has defied all conventional wisdom by leading one of the world’s largest corporations with a sustainability-first strategy guided by morality and ethical ideals.
The goal was to double the business while also making a good social effect and lowering the carbon footprint. The new CEO intended to build a profitable and expanding company that had beneficial social, environmental, and economic effects, in other words, a sustainable company.
Paul Polman established the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in 2013 with the following objectives:
- Improve the health of a billion people throughout the world by 2015
- Reduce the company’s environmental footprint
- To obtain 100% of its products in a sustainable manner
On analyzing the USLP through the lenses of various stakeholders, we infer the following:
The firm may turn this into income-generating by expanding its reach. This would not only boost the firm’s brand image but would also help the company increase its market share in key economies. Unilever would benefit from sustainable practices in order to retain long-term relationships with suppliers of high-quality raw materials.
There is the possibility of limiting the harmful consequences that corporations have had on the environment. They can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and trash disposal, as well as move toward more sustainable sourcing.
They can improve the livelihoods of a billion people and offer them opportunities for long-term progress by influencing their lives. There is a significant chance to touch women not just as a target audience, but also to better their financial and living situations through inclusive business. Direct customers are concerned about how the product is cultivated and manufactured.
Suppliers, mostly farmers, can improve productivity and quality of products by partnering with Unilever’s advanced R&D. This would help to boost economic growth and enhance people’s lives.
Investors would be more than glad to be associated with a company that does not fit within the traditional tent of the corporate bubble, dubbed “Corporate Thief,” as Unilever’s brand image develops along with revenue creation.
Responsive CSR entails acting as a good corporate citizen, meeting the requirements of expanding stakeholders and mitigating an organization’s existing and prospective negative consequences. It is not immediately tied to the company’s primary business and focuses on environmental concerns or broader societal consequences such as training programs.
For instance, Maruti’s approach to providing road safety instruction in order to prevent accidents. The USLP was not a typical CSR program; rather, it was the philosophy that Paul Polman wished to implement throughout Unilever’s operations and strategy.
It falls under the concept of strategic CSR, in which a company leverages its competitive advantages to help society while also improving its own competitive position. The goal was to make this part of Unilever’s fundamental strategy, with a philosophy of “doing well by doing good,” which harmonized with commercial success.
PwC independently reviewed USLP objectives for better process review. The idea, while ambitious, was a smart approach since it might help Unilever achieve…
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