Sustainability, as it relates to both social and environmental issues, is treated very differently among companies that incorporate the subject into their business strategies. In this caselet, we explore sustainability at Unilever whose management addresses it not as a risk to be managed or cost to be avoided, but as an opportunity for competitive advantage and growth. With emerging markets as the backdrop we learn about Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, and what the company has done to integrate sustainability principles into its business model and build on its core competencies, such as innovative product development and marketing expertise, to realise the potential of the fast-growing emerging markets (55% of its 2012 revenues came from emerging markets compared to less than 17% of most multinationals). Issues considered are the role of corporate culture and competencies, the importance of committed and courageous leadership, the willingness to set ambitious goals, and the challenge of creating internal and external alignment around strategic goals. The caselet is particularly well-suited for discussion at a Board and management level, as well as with graduate business students in strategy, organizational change, business and society, corporate responsibility and leadership courses.
You can download the case at The Case Centre - here. A detailed Teaching Note is also available.
This case won the 2018 Best Case Award in the "Category Ethics and Social Responsibility". Read here
The case discusses the birth and maturing of the world's largest voluntary initiative for corporate responsibility and sustainability: The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). In just a few years from its creation in 2000, the UNGC made impressive progress. By 2018, more than 9,800 companies from 163 countries had signed up to the initiative. The UNGC managed to establish local networks (ie clusters of participants) in nearly 70 countries, and many praised the initiative for transforming the corporate sustainability movement. However, there were also many problems. Until 2018, the UNGC had to expel more than 8,000 firms, because they didn't meet the minimum participation requirement: to submit an annual report that outlines implementation progress. This reinforced the view of critics who had long argued that the initiative lacked 'teeth' and that it rather impeded progress in the area of corporate sustainability.
This case is part of Copenhagen Business School's Free Case Collection.
You can download the case here. If you use the case in class, please register the use at The Case Centre where you can also obtain the free license.
You can also download a comprehensive Teaching Note at The Case Centre.