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CSR Departments Redundant, Unilever Chief Says

CSR departments are redundant, Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed told the annual Marketing Society conference in London.

Weed said brands should weave CSR into their practices across the company, and that stand-alone CSR departments are an “add-on,” Marketing magazine reports.

Weed added: “The only sustainable growth is consumer-demanded growth. Clearly, in a resourcefully strained world we need to think about environmental and social responsibility.”

He said the company plans to focus its growth efforts heavily on sanitation products because of the projected growth in urban slums.

Weed also said that the manufacture of Unilever products only contributes three percent of the products’ lifetime greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 26 percent for the raw material stage and 68 percent for product use.

In other company news, Unilever was announced as the Grand Prix winner at the 2011 International Green Awards in London. It won the award in recognition of its Sustainable Living Plan, which judges say includes ambitious goals and represents a comprehensive value chain approach to sustainability.

The plan, launched just over one year ago, includes goals to cut the environmental footprint of Unilever’s products in half, sustainably source 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials, and help 1 billion people improve their health and well-being.

Last month, in a joint report with Sainsbury’s and Forum for the Future, Unilever said companies must drive sustainability, rather than waiting for consumers to demand more sustainable products and services.

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5 thoughts on “CSR Departments Redundant, Unilever Chief Says

  1. A provocative assertion but one that you can see being enacted if you look at how companies are funding and staffing for sustainability.

    According to a new Green Research survey of 49 top sustainability executives, 2012 sustainability budgets will grow faster -outside- of sustainability departments than inside them. And many companies have more sustainability-focused staff throughout their organizations than they do in the sustainability department itself.

  2. Every time I am caught in some CSR harangue usually by some unwashed loser I ask how many jobs have they created? My latest company took a dilapidated heap of building, replaced it with a beautiful multipurpose building (construction jobs) – started a business (jobs and taxes) and I am constantly training and improving my workforce so they improve my company AND their own future (with or with out my employment). So much of the enviro-data has been shown to be corrupt. Usually corrupt with political intent. Much of the enviro-agenda is a smiley-faced veil for a socialist/facist political apparatchiks. My companies will no longer accept any enviro-cause data at face value. PROVE YOURSELVES. Likewise any government representative issues a directive or an order – that rep. must supply copies of the law or regulation to legitimize the request. I give 100% to my businesses, 14 – 16 hrs a day, 7 days a week. I am a wealth and jobs creator and I am no longer going to just give in to anti-business blather. Period.

  3. I believe there is a degree of truth to this, and that, if done right, it could work to everyone’s benefit. I recall similar comments about departments for Quality, Environmental, and Safety. It IS better if an organization realizes that Quality is everyone’s job, and a culture of Quality gets embedded into every product design, request for funds, marketing campaign, customer interaction, etc. What may have started out as a Quality Department with entire responsibility for Quality organization-wide, shrinks to a smaller department, but one with a different mission – a mission of specialists, tracking emerging issues, governance, peer/ competitive analysis, and support. Same has held true for Environmental and Safety functions; once the regulatory requirements were understood, most effort is pushed down to appropriate organizational levels and embedded into operations. Sustainability is different in that drivers are not simply regulatory. They are not “command and control” like (U.S.-based) regulations. There are many more issues, drivers, stakeholders, requirements, conventional practices, risks, and opportunities – and moving parts for all of the above. If a Sustainability Culture can be ingrained at a company, then perhaps the current LOOK of a Sustainability function may not be as necessary. In my view, the organization would be well-served if it follows the Quality path and changes the mission and focus of a Sustainability group.

  4. I agree with Keith Weed – it’s all about doing good business, there’s no point in companies having a CSR department as an “add on” to look good if they don’t truly practice good business and have a responsible ethos throughout the company, driven from the top down.

  5. @Adriana,

    It would be a very idealistic situation, like saying we need no police since our crime rates are nearly zero. IN that case we would not need an audit department one day assuming every member of staff is ‘honest’ with integrity intact. Why do we need our annual audits had the company been at the best of its practices on every aspect. Likewise most ‘speciality’ departments would be redundant one day, and half the people would lose their jobs since there would be no supervision and monitoring required. Same applies to companies that are socially, economically and environmentally conscious. And simply put, we need ‘experts’ on this subject matter. CSR may be redundant put CSR practitioners and experts would be required if not the departments. It is like saying I am ‘honest’ in my way and do not need to go to Sunday school.

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