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People Work and Employment Case Study- Unilever

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HR sustainability is a very wide concept which comprises of the well being of human resources, customers as well as the responsibilities of companies towards the environment. This report talks about the HR Sustainability initiatives adopted by Unilever into its vision and mission for a sustainable future. In the first issue this report aims to identify why the initiatives selected are HR Sustainable initiatives and not just HR policies which are validated in the issue. The report then tests whether the identified initiatives in issue 1 fit within the framework of beliefs, norms and values of Unilever. Then it discusses whether the initiatives taken up create positive social and human outcomes and the drawbacks of the initiatives if any. Lastly, the report checks for the feasibility of the selected initiatives in Small and Medium Enterprises and how they could implement certain actions through sustainable hr policies.



The first initiative picked is the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) which was introduced by the company in 2010. This initiative counts as a sustainable initiative as it focuses towards helping a billion people improve their health and well being, reducing the companies environmental footprint by half and to enhance the livelihoods of people in its value chain. They were built on 7 pillars which were then broken up into specified targets. This strategy was introduced with a set of beliefs that it would cut costs, increase employee engagement, improve job satisfaction and working standards and stimulate growth. These 3 objectives show the efforts taken by Unilever to build a sustainable environment through sustainable HR policies that will slowly but eventually lead to sustainable growth.


The second initiative is the USLP REFRESH initiative which was introduced by the newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer Ms Gail Klintworth. She played a major role in this initiative as she noticed several employees were a bit confused on how to integrate Unilever Sustainable Living Plan initiatives into their strategies. The USLP REFRESH initiative views sustainability linked opportunities on 3 levels which are must do initiatives critical to the business, consider growth and cost cutting opportunities and opportunities where Unilever could lead the way on social and environmental issues.

According to Ehnert ‘the main objectives of sustainable HRM are (1) to balance the ambiguities and duality of efficiency and sustainability over a long-lasting period of time; (2) to sustain, develop and reproduce an organisation’s human and social resource e.g. help the mutual exchange relationships; and (3) to evaluate and assess negative effects of HR activities on the HR base and on the sources for HR’ (Ehnert 2006, p. 14). Taking into account the objectives and goals set within the above 2 initiatives it is very clear that these are not just any HR policies that only works within the framework of the organisation but these are policies and methods adopted by the organisation to address new issues such as environmental/ecological issues, employee well-being as a whole to achieve the organisations objectives.



The USLP initiative is well within the norms and beliefs of the organisation. This was one of the first initiatives adopted by the company under their new CEO Paul Polman who believed in a ‘Compass Vision’ for the company. He aimed at doubling Unilever’s business by reducing its environmental impact. The main aim of Unilever as described on the Unilever website (2019) which states that their aim is to make sustainable living commonplace. They believe that growth should not be at the expense of harming people and the environment. This initiative adds value to the human resources through effective development programmes implemented.


 The USLP REFRESH initiative adopted by Ms Klintworth was commendable. She took up issues such as finding opportunities in which Unilever could be a market leader in terms of environmental and social issues. These initiatives were so impressive that some of them were incorporated into the core pillars of Unilever’s HR Sustainability initiatives making it a total of 9 core pillars as of today. These actions taken up by the company show that the initiatives taken up by Ms Klintworth were in line with Unilever’s objectives and norms as listed on their website which stated that sustainable and equitable growth is the only way to create long-term value for all the stakeholders.

As we can see the efforts taken up by Unilever in the above mentioned initiatives show how much they believe in their sustainability initiatives and what it means to their objectives and goals moving forward.



The USLP initiative taken up by Unilever has faced many ups and downs since its implementation but mainly ups. This initiative addresses issues such as reducing the company’s environmental footprint by half and to enhance the livelihoods of people in its value chain. Such targets have been met are on the verge of being met and the proof of it is in the results announced by Unilever which showed that adopting sustainability into their strategies have helped creating ‘Sustainable Brands’ in their portfolio which accounted for half of Unilever’s growth. Investors were rewarded with an 18% rise in shareholder return. Job satisfaction and employee engagement were also tracked and the results of them under the USLP initiative were impressive as there was a 12% increase from 63% to 75%. Another big success for Unilever is that they have almost reached their target of providing education on health and hygiene aspects to 1 billion consumers through on ground activities and television promotional reach. This helped in creating positive human, social, and environmental outcomes.



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