Social enviromental issues in marketing – a case


The world’s largest consumer products company — Unilever — has woken up to the fact that addressing consumers’ social and environmental concern is as important for a brand as its functional attributes. Unilever group CEO believes the successful brands of the future will be those that not only satisfy consumers’ functional needs but also address their concerns as citizens.

The group is thus developing a new process that enables a full analysis of social, economic and environmental issues relevant to each brand to be built into brand innovation and development strategies. Unilever terms it as ‘Brand Imprint’, which is currently being piloted with a number of its key brands.

Certain key brands and initiatives from Hindustan lever, its Indian subsidiary are expected to play a vital role in this plot study. Water initiatives have been pioneered at Unilever through innovations such as surf Excel’s save two buckets of water per wash which enables the Indian consumer to get the same results with less rinsing.

Surf Excel sales grew by 50% in 2005, in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where water availability is a constraint. Even in the northern states, it is said to have registered a 10% growth.

As is well known, the multi-local business of The Body Shop was founded on an overriding commitment of dedicating its business to the pursuits of social and environmental change. Since such products are gaining ground, Unilever’s move to pilot Brand Imprint does not come as a surprise.

Unilever France’s fastest growing home and personal care brand — Actigel tablets — is yet another example. The tablets are said to deliver the same laundry performance with 20% less chemical composition and a 5% reduction in the size and weight of the packaging — saving energy and resources in making and transporting the tablets.

However, since the direct environmental effects in these areas represent only a fraction of the impact at the point of use, Unilever plans to intensify its actions through Brand Imprint.

Brand Imprint will take into account the total social, environmental and economic impact of a brand and the influences that will shape its growth in the future.