Tuesday, 1 November 2011

CASE 356 - Unilever

Unilever is a British-Dutch multinational corporation that owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products many of which contain harmful chemicals to both humans and the environment. Unilever is a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever N.V. in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. This arrangement is similar to those of Reed Elsevier and Royal Dutch Shell prior to their unified structures. Both Unilever companies have the same directors and effectively operate as a single business. The current non-executive Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Michael Treschow while Paul Polman is Group Chief Executive. Unilever's main international competitors include Nestlé and Procter & Gamble. They also face competition in local markets or product ranges from companies such as Grupo Bimbo, Beiersdorf, ConAgra, Danone, General Mills, Henkel, Mars, Inc., Pepsico, Reckitt Benckiser and S. C. Johnson & Son.

Unilever was founded on 1 January 1930 by Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme. The amalgamation of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie made sound commercial sense, as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines and soaps, and could be imported more efficiently in larger quantities.


For a full list of billion dollar brands, see List of Unilever brands. Unilever owns more than 400 brands as a result of acquisitions, however, the company focuses on what are called the "billion-dollar brands", 13 brands, each of which achieve annual sales in excess of €1 billion. Unilever's top 25 brands account for more than 70% of sales.The brands fall almost entirely into two categories: Food and Beverages, and Home and Personal Care.
Unilever's brands include:
Ben & Jerry's
Blue Band
Lux (soap)
Omo/Surf (detergent)


Environmental issues

Unilever's stated goals are to decouple growth from the company's environmental impact by
halving the environmental footprint of its products
helping 1 billion people improve their health and well-being
sourcing all of its agricultural raw materials sustainably

Palm oil

Unilever has been criticised by Greenpeace for causing deforestation, Unilever was targeted in 2008 by Greenpeace UK, which criticised the company for buying palm oil from suppliers that are damaging Indonesia's rainforests. Unilever, as a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), responded by publicizing its plan to obtain all of its palm oil from sources that are certified as sustainable by 2015.
In Côte d'Ivoire, one of Unilever's palm oil suppliers was accused of clearing forest for plantations, an activity that threatened a primate species, Miss Waldron's Red Colobus. Unilever intervened to halt the clearances pending the results of an environmental assessment.
On 4 July 2010, Unilever announced that it has secured enough GreenPalm certificates of sustainable palm oil to cover the requirements of its European, Australia, and New Zealand business.[citation needed] GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme, endorsed by the RSPO, which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.

Rainforest Alliance

Unilever has committed to purchase all its tea from sustainable, ethical sources. It has asked the international environmental NGO, Rainforest Alliance, to start by certifying tea farms in Africa.
Lipton and PG Tips will be the first brands to contain certified tea. The company aims to have all Lipton Yellow Label and PG Tips tea bags sold in Western Europe certified by 2010 and all Lipton tea bags sold globally by 2015.

Animal testing

Unilever states it is committed to the elimination of animal testing, and where it is a legal requirement in some countries, it tries to convince the local authorities to change the law. Some activists[who?] argue that this is little more than an effort to gain good publicity and Unilever continue to use animal experimentation such as the LD50 poisoning test.

Social issues

Race and advertisements

Hindustan Unilever, had been showing television advertisements for skin-lightening cream, Fair and Lovely, depicting depressed, dark-skinned women, who had been ignored by employers and men, suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after the cream had lightened their skin.
The Austrian branch of Unilever (Eskimo) is producing and marketing an ice-cream under the name Mohr im Hemd. "Mohr" (moor), is a colonial German word for African or black people, has a heavily colonialist and racist connotation., "Mohr im Hemd" (moor in the shirt) is a traditional Austrian chocolate speciality which refers to naked, "wild" Africans. Unilever refutes any racist intentions and claims that it has tested the name in broad market studies in Austria without any critical feedback.

Sexism in advertisements

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood criticized Unilever for the 2007 Axe marketing campaign, which they considered sexist. Unilever's response is that the Axe campaign is intended as a spoof and "not meant to be taken literally".
Unilever has launched the Dove "Real Beauty" marketing campaign, which encouraged women to reject the underfed and hyper-sexualized images of modern advertising in 2007.

Child labour

In 2003 Hindustan Unilever was accused of making use of child labour, among others.


A freezer in Queens, NY filled with Strauss ice cream from Israel with the Heartbrand
Unilever has produced many advertising campaigns, including:
Lynx/Axe click advert with Nick Lachey (US only) and Ben Affleck (Non-US only)
PG Tips Monkey and Al
Knorr Chinese Soup, 'Just add one egg!'
Flora London Marathon
Knorr global brand
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, including Evolution
Calve Pindakaas (peanut butter) in the Netherlands
Comfort Pure recommended by mothercare
CLEAR Men Ice Cool Menthol 2011 with the Portuguese male sports footballer Cristiano Ronaldo
CLEAR Complete Soft Care 2011 with the Indonesian female actress Sandra Dewi
CLEAR Soft & Shiny 2011 with the Indonesian female singers Sherina Munaf
SUNSILK Clean & Fresh 2011 with the Indonesian female singers Lala Karmela

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