Corporate social responsibility is increasingly becoming part of the competitive strategies of profit oriented and even non-profit inclined organisations. Firms have been realising a gap in their strategic plans because of the failure to pay attention to corporate social activities (Porter and Kramer 2002).
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Corporate social activities and strategic management cannot be easily separated from firms that are embracing modern management practices (Bhattacharya, Korschun and Sen 2009). In this paper, it is argued that corporate social responsibility links the firm with their stakeholder, and most importantly, with the customers of the firm.
The Unilever Company has been pursuing strategic management in an attempt to improve the competitiveness of the company on the global scale. Unilever has been including and executing corporate activities in its strategic plans.
This paper thus discusses how corporate social activities inform strategic management in Unilever. The paper also discusses the benefits of including corporate social responsibility in the strategic plan of the company.
Mission and business objectives of Unilever
Unilever has expanded and carries out its operation in more than one hundred countries around the world. The growth in the company has been attained through the help of business objectives of the company. Success in business often comes from the articulation of business practices and business objectives.
The objectives of the company have been inclined towards helping the company gain a considerable share of the market amidst the competition that exists in the market. Corporate social goals have been crafted and included in the strategic objectives of the company so as to facilitate the growth path.
The mission of Unilever is to create a product that will satisfy its customers on a sustainable basis. The company sets several objective and activities to help it in achieving its mission (Unilever Website 2012).
The objectives of the company centre on three main issues that include increasing business growth, increasing the social impacts of the company, and aiding in the attainment of a safe environment. Just like any other business company, the major objective of the Unilever is to attain growth through penetrating into the market. Sustainability and social development come as secondary objectives.
They are supportive to the main objectives of the company and are included in what is called corporate governance or corporate management. Corporate social responsibility is discharged through these objectives. The two objectives have been found to be very supportive of business objectives of firms.
Therefore, firms are often forced into it because they have to meet their major business objectives. Organizational success is dependent on how a firm interacts with its environment.
CSR has been found to be a better way through which a firm can interact with its business environment. Unilever has thus been active in including corporate social plans in its strategic management activities (Unilever Website, 2012).
Strategic Change and Corporate Social Responsibility in Unilever
According to Emerald (2012), corporate social responsibility is a recent phenomenon in management. Implementation of corporate social responsibility in firms is quite costly and challenging for firms. This is because the societal stakeholders often demand a lot from the organisation that might not be met since firms strive to maximise profits.
As firms include corporate social activities in their operations, they must remember to balance between their profit making motives and the pursuance of corporate social responsibilities (Yuan, Bao and Verbeke, 2011). Porter and Cramer (2006) observed that firms often pursue CSR in a haphazard manner, and this prevents them from attaining business goals.
CSR is beneficial to firms if it is pursued in a strategic manner and is included in the strategic plans of the firm. While consuming the finances of a firm, corporate social responsibilities can help firms in making huge profits by virtue of enticing and making customers have strong attachments to the organisation (Yuan, Bao and Verbeke, 2011).
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Firms have to embrace changes from time to time because of dynamics in the business environment. The changes are often meant to help firms in adapting to the changing nature of business thence remaining profitable (Jones and Bartlett, 2009). Attaining a strategic direction is one of the core objectives of changes that take place within organisations (Smith, 2009).
From the beginning of the beginning of the 21st century, Unilever has been very active in strategizing and implementing strategic changes. The most important development in the company from the year 2000 has been the step by step integration of major business processes in its strategies (Mirvis, 2011).
This includes corporate social governance that has been fully incorporated and executed by the management of the company. These changes have aimed at helping the company contain competition for other global giants that are dealing in similar products.
The competitor firms like Procter and Gamble have been very active in corporate social activities termed as one of their main tools of market entrance and sustainability (Emerald 2005). These changes have been characterised with increased collaboration and partnership of the company with the community.
The company has become increasingly involved in supporting many initiatives within the society. Notably, the company has continued to attain big shares through the adoption of these strategic changes despite the high competition that exists in the market (Smith 2009).
The interaction with the society through CSR has been resourceful in the continued development and implementation of strategic plans. The firm can discover new needs in the market and thus work on developing products that meet the emerging needs in the society.
This is how Unilever has managed to come up with many new products that still gain access and acceptance in the market. Combining corporate social responsibility and strategic plans of the company are critical in doing business. This is one way through which brand awareness is easily enhanced.
Therefore, CSR is one of the components of branding that have helped Unilever to develop and maintain strong brands in the market (Emerald 2005).
A good example of how the Unilever Company has driven business through corporate social responsibility can be exemplified by real cases. The company that has operated in Indonesia since the year 1933 has re-crafted its goals. The company now employs aspects of corporate social responsibility.
These goals include the halving of environmental footprint for its products, aiding people in the country in raising their health standards, and sourcing its raw products using sustainable mechanisms. The company management ensures that all these goals are incorporated in both the short and long term goals of the company and that they drive the company towards profits.
By including the goals in the strategic plan of the firm, CSR activities are separated from philanthropic and charity work, which are often short-term projects. Corporate social activities are run as part of the internal goals of the internal goals of the company and are pursued on a long-term basing. They often contribute both directly and indirectly to the outcomes of the company (Hidayati 2011).
Having fully employed CSR in strategic management, the company implements CSR through programs that are run both on short-term and long-term bases. Sustainable development is implemented as part of the external, corporate social activities of the company (Emerald 2011).
The company sponsors many sustainability programs being undertaken by other organizations in the society besides running their own programs. The company strongly participates in environmental campaigns across the globe.
The company also does this internally by promoting environmentally friendly technologies and inputs in the production of its products. This adds value to the products of the company thereby giving them a considerable competitive strength over other products (Unilever 2000).
Corporate social responsibility is a recent subject in management. However, it is very important in enhancing firms’ competitiveness. This happens when it is implemented alongside the strategic objectives of an organization. It has become very vital in as far as firms aim to formulate new competitive strategies in the management. Corporate social responsibility comes with a big cost to an organization.
However, this cost is often offset when strategic plans combing social, corporate activities help in positioning a firm in the market. Unilever has adopted strategic changes since the year 2000. With the incorporation of corporate social activities in the strategic plans for change, the company has managed to remain competitive in the industry that has many strong players.
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