Adding vitality to communities and environmental commitment

Paul Boughton

Unilever's mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene, and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good, and get more out of life: one hundred and fifty million times a day somebody chooses a Unilever brand.

Our UK roots stretch back over 100 years to when William Hesketh Lever founded Lever Brothers, and our Dutch roots go back even further. Our founders had strong values and a clear commitment to corporate social responsibility.
This commitment continues today, expressed in our code of business principles and our vitality mission. Driving the mission forward is our corporate strategy, powered by areas of strategic focus. These focus our business activities -- and the energies of Unilever people -- on the areas where we believe we can create a distinct competitive advantage.
So when we talk about corporate citizenship -- or corporate responsibility as we prefer to call it -- we don't see it as something we ado' to society. It is an integral part of everything we do. Not just voluntary philanthropy or community investment, but how we manage our operations, the products we market, and the interactions we have with the societies we serve.

Engaging with societies

We believe passionately in engaging with the societies where we operate. This is what we call the very business of adoing business'. By doing business in a responsible and sustainable way, we can enhance the prosperity of our business and society. This is why we say the very business of doing business can have a positive social impact.
In developing economies, where domestic capital is in short supply, international capital is vital -- and direct corporate investment is especially important. Our presence supports development. We set high standards for our products and operations. We train people to maintain those standards, enlarging the skills pool. We transfer technology from where it is developed to where it is needed. We create jobs. We pay our taxes.
We don't always get everything right. And when we get it wrong we are committed to move fast to put it right. The essential point is that whether it is product safety, health and safety at work, or a learning environment for employees, we are committed to these ame principles wherever we operate.

Supply chain and distribution

Unilever's local economic impact extends beyond ur direct operations to the many suppliers and ub-contractors who provide our raw materials and help distribute our products.
Our approach is to work in partnership with them because it is clearly in our interest, in getting our brands to our consumers, that we are working to shared high standards and practices.
Raising the performance bar in this way creates direct economic benefits. For example, in Indonesia Unilever works with more than a thousand local companies, many of them small and medium-sized enterprises that we have nurtured from start-up. They supply raw materials and packaging, or distribute our products throughout the country.
We are also committed to serve the needs of ow-income consumers -- many of whom live in remote rural areas in developing countries. For example, in India, Hindustan Lever's Project Shakti is creating income-generating capabilities for rural women by providing a sustainable micro-enterprise opportunity.


We see ourselves as a multi-local multinational. This is because we are deeply rooted in the communities where we do business.
Unilever is a decentralised organisation. We do not impose global programmes on our managers. Instead we work on the principle of afreedom within a framework'. We empower managers, within agreed boundaries, to decide what is right for their business in their local societies. This means a local management staffed by local people, working to understand and meet local needs. And as a local corporate citizen we seek to play our part in supporting local community activities.

No single company can ever hope to address broad social and community issues alone. But we can -- and do -- contribute our capabilities in partnership with others in civil society. The idea is to pool our expertise and work together to make a difference.
Nothing could be closer to our mission than to work in partnership to improve local education. Education is, after all, the principal stepping-stone o enable people to make informed choices about heir lives.
We drew on innovative product and system development work by our business in India. This helped us devise a low-cost salt brand called Annapurna that is fortified with iodine. We launched this in Ghana in 2000 in partnership with Ghana's health ministry and Unicef. Both organisations had been trying for many years to persuade Ghanaians to include more iodine in their diet. Working with our partners we have been able to persuade people that buying iodised salt in packets at a price similar to raw salt is a smart thing to do.
This provides clear evidence of how business -- by doing business -- contributes to sustainable development. This is a clear win-win-win. Consumers win by taking in the much-needed micro-nutrients. The authorities win by helping to improve the health f their people. And we in business win by selling a product profitably.

A healthy environment

As a business, we depend on a healthy environment. The people who buy our cleaning products, for example, need clean water to use them. And we need clean water to make them. Our frozen fish business must have a regular supply of healthy fish. Our foods business needs high-quality agricultural goods.
We are conscious of our dependence on a healthy environment and the need to keep it that way with sound environmental practices of our own. We use a life-cycle approach to assess the environmental impact of our products and business activities. This enables us to work out our footprint, analyse our impacts and then to concentrate on those areas where we can make the most difference.
We estimate around 95000 school children have benefited from improved equipment and facilities through Unilever's -- and our employees' -- efforts to refurbish schools. But our education efforts cover much more than education. While training is certainly one of our capabilities, we bring other expertise to the table. Our motivation is always to make a positive difference to communities. This is illustrated with an example about how we bring our business capabilities to bear on a health problem.

One of the key causes of poor health in the developing world is micro-nutrient deficiency. Insufficient levels of iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin A in the diet cause stunted growth, mental retardation, brain damage, damaged eyesight, anaemia, still births and child mortality. Our response has been to approach the problem by applying a combination of our scientific know-how, our manufacturing skills and our experience in product distribution and communication.
In addition, we have completed guidelines for the sustainable management of all five of our key crops -- palm oil, tea, peas, spinach and tomatoes. The guidelines are published on a website set up specially to share knowledge (But" target="_blank">
what do these guidelines mean in practice? Take tea. We manage our own tea estates in IndiaKenya and Tanzania. But much of the tea we buy comes from thousands of smallholders. We aim to buy an increasing proportion of our tea from sustainable sources.
Our first step has been to run pilot projects on our own estates. These have been identifying sustainable agricultural practicecodifying it and then explaining it in easy-to-read guides. These are being translated into local languages.
The challenge now is to share these with all tea growersespecially with small farmers. We can only do this by working in partnership with smallholders' associationsenvironmental NGOs and local governments. We have a number of initiatives in an advanced stage of development designed to do this. It is not easybut we are persevering.
Howeverthere is one project in particular which really shows what vitality can mean in practice. In Indonesiawe have been working for three years on the Clean Brantas River project. The programme improves sanitationwaste management and local infrastructure. It does this while greening the surrounding areascreating income-generation activities and opportunities for improved nutritionand promoting environmental understanding. The result of these activities is a paradigm shift in people's attitude towards the river: instead of a dumping ground for rubbishthey now view it as a valuable resource.


We believe passionately that the very business of doing business responsibly has a positive benefit. In Unileverwe do this by using our capabilities to contribute to the vitality of peopleto the economic prosperity of communities and the well-being of the environment on which we all depend. Business has to play a role in addressing the socialenvironmental and economic challenges of development. But no single party can do so on its own. We are keen to use our capabilities to play our part.