January 2008: INSEAD report launched at World Economic Forum

A new independent report, commissioned by Unilever to assess its economic, social and environmental footprint in South Africa, has recently been published.

Tough questions

The report builds on a similar study commissioned by Unilever from Oxfam on its impact in Indonesia, which was published in 2005.

Authored by professor Ethan Kapstein of INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools, the new report uses a rigorous methodological approach designed to increase Unilever’s understanding of its role in South Africa’s development. Only with this level of insight can Unilever ensure it is making a truly positive contribution.

Reasons to be proud

The report praises Unilever for contributing 0.9% of the South African government’s tax revenue, paying employees above-average wages and providing them with quality healthcare and learning opportunities.

For every job directly created at Unilever in South Africa, another 22 workers depended on the company for some part of their livelihood. In total this represents 0.8% of total South African employment.

Global standards, local priorities

The report also notes that the company implements global environmental standards in South Africa and promotes the country’s Black Economic Empowerment programme.

Room for improvement

But, at the same time, the report highlights areas where Unilever could improve. Its author recommends that the company should provide more support to local suppliers - helping them compete in the global economy – and reduce packaging as part of a wider effort to better its environmental performance.

Insisting on integrity

“Over and above its specific findings, the report shows Unilever has the integrity to confront its impact as a whole – an essential step in its ongoing drive to sustainable business development,” concludes Santiago Gowland, VP Unilever Brand & Global Corporate Responsibility.