The IUP Journal of Case Folio
Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan: Putting Sustainability at the Center of Business Strategy

Article Details
Pub. Date : Sep' 2022
Product Name : The IUP Journal of Case Folio
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJCF020922
Author Name : Shwetha Kumari and G V Muralidhara
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Management
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 21



Unilever, of Anglo-Dutch parentage, owns a wide range of consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents, and personal care products sold in over 190 countries. The company brought in Paul Polman (Polman), an outsider, as its CEO consequent to a fall in market share and its first ever profit warning in 2004. In 2010, Unilever started a new initiative called the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in response to major global trends the company had identified - growth in emerging markets, increasing population, environmental stress, digital revolution and changing (urbanization) demographics. However, it faced a backlash for environmental destruction. The USLP initiative covered not just Unilever's GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions, waste and water use but also the impact caused by its suppliers and consumers from agricultural growers to its packaging and waste water produced by consumers of its brands. Although Unilever celebrated the final year of its 10-year USLP in 2020, the strategy was not successful in all sectors as it faced many challenges. The question experts were asking was how Unilever would be able to make sustainable living commonplace and continue to be the leader in sustainable business worldwide.

Unilever has a long history of trying to do the right thing that stretches all the way back to its founders, who talked about shared prosperity and making hygiene common place. This is the original inspiration for our long-term, multi-stakeholder model, where shareholder returns are the result of our activities, not the objective - or put another way, profits through purpose. After all, we are ultimately here to serve society, which in my view is the only sustainable way to earn your license to operate.i

- Paul Polman, Ex-CEO, Unilever, 2020


"As the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan journey concludes, we will take everything we have learned and build on it. We will do more of what has worked well, we will correct what has not, and we will set ourselves new challenges," said Alan Jope (Jope), CEO, Unilever, on the occasion of the tenth and final year of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in May 2020.ii Unilever, a multinational corporation of Anglo-Dutch parentage formed in 1930, owns many of the world's consumer product brands