Sustainability refers to the ability to last and endure for an extended period. Sustainability is closely related to sustainable development, which involves organizations meeting their own present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is viewed in three dimensions: economic, social, and environmental dimensions (Purvis et al., 2019). Organizations should develop systems to evaluate their progress to achieve sustainable development and set up programs that measure changes in economic, social, and environmental concerns. The three dimensions should be equally balanced to achieve sustainability within an organization.
The Five Capitals model
The Five Capitals model provides organizations with the required basis and knowledge to understand sustainability concerning the concept of Capital and wealth. Organizations use five types of sustainable Capital to deliver their products and services. It is essential that organizations enhance and maintain their capital assets rather than promote degradation of the assets. There are five types of sustainable Capital that organizations can use to improve the quality of their products and services (Klimek & Jędrych, 2020). The five types of Capital are human Capital, Natural Capital, Social Capital, Financial Capital, and manufactured Capital. The maintenance and enhancement of all five Capitals are essential for the sustainability of economic development.
The five types of Capital are financial, manufactured, human, natural, and Social Capital. Financial Capital is used to enhance economic production while manufactured Capital includes physical assets used to increase the production of goods and services. Natural Capital consists of natural resources and ecosystem services. Human Capital refers to the human capabilities and skills acquired through training and education, while social Capital refers to the company’s core values, mutual trust, and understanding.
Articulation of the Five Capitals model concepts in Unilever’s corporate strategy
The Five Capitals model has been incorporated into Unilever’s corporate strategy to design its vision on sustainability to promote the company’s endurance, its products, and services (Klimek & Jędrych, 2020). The company’s vision states purpose-led, future-fit. The image says what the company needs to do to maximize the use of each type of Capital and promote environmental sustainability and development (page 4).
The vision aims to use all the available resources to enhance the company’s growth while enhancing the production of its products and services. Unilever has promoted environmental and social sustainability by increasing its products’ productivity and making its product brands more prominent (page 9). Manufactured capital such as agricultural raw materials and chemical products have been used to increase and enhance the production processes of their products. Financial capital through the help of investors, has been used in productive activities.
The circular economy model and its articulation in Unilever’s corporate strategy
The circular economy model is used in production and consumption, and it involves reusing and recycling the available materials and products as many times as possible. The circular economy model aims at curbing global challenges by using three principles: waste and pollution elimination, recycling available products and materials, and the regeneration of nature (De Sousa Jabbour et al.,2019). Unilever has incorporated the circular economy model using the new global loop system for reusing and recycling containers (page 17). Unilever has introduced fully recycled plastic packaging to reduce waste disposal according to the circular economy principle of waste and pollution elimination. Unilever has also used renewable energy sources to curb climate change (page 22).
Sustainable development goals
Sustainable development goals apply to all organizations around the world. The sustainable goals aim at poverty eradication and realization of a sustainable environment. Some sustainable development goals include poverty eradication globally, achievement of food security, promoting healthy lives and personal well-being, and gender equality, among others (SDG,2018). The United Nations has set aside 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets, and all are 8ntended to be achieved. Each sustainable development goal has targets and indicators to help examine the progress towards achieving the goal. For the proper implementation of sustainable development goals, long-term investments are necessary to facilitate achieving these goals. The SDGs also face challenges such as disease outbreaks and pandemics like the covid-19.
Unilever has made a great effort to align its work with the sustainable development goals. Unilever has observed and aimed at achieving the SDGs such as proper climate action through collaboration with the Paris Agreement on Climate change to limit emissions into the environment (page 43). Affordable and clean energy has also been considered through streamlined power and carbon reporting. People’s excellent health and well-being in the surrounding environment have been achieved by protecting employees’ health and safety in the workplace. Sustainable growth can be completed in Unilever by providing safe and high-quality products.
Unilever has incorporated the goal of gender equality by creating more opportunities for women. Unilever has invested so much in women from all over the world by giving them job opportunities, access to free training, loans, business finances, and access to the latest technologies. Unilever has also partnered with UN Women to promote women’s safety in all economic sectors (Dmitrievna, 2021). Unilever has given women from marginalized areas an opportunity to earn a living by providing more options.
Two SDGs that need improvement in Unilever
Unilever has tried to achieve good health and well-being of people from all over the world, although certain adjustments need to be made. Unilever has partnered with many organizations making it easier for people to live healthy lives. Hygiene and sanitation need to be improved since most of the population still lacks access to safe drinking water and many people live without basic sanitation. Lack of safe drinking water has caused children diarrheal diseases, leading to mortalities. Although Unilever has reached and encouraged most of the population to exercise handwashing activities, most of the population still has no access to clean toilets and safe drinking water. There is still pollution and waste disposal in rivers and other water sources, which has hindered Unilever from achieving the goal of water and sanitation (Dmitrievna, 2021). The pollution of water sources has led to health-related diseases among most of the population hence failure to achieve health and well-being of the people. Unilever should fasten the process of innovation to improve the health of both the people and the planet (page 17).
Unilever has tried to align its work with the poverty eradication sustainable development goal, but some gaps still exist. Unilever has used its scale for good to help most people suffering due to lack of food. Poverty eradication is a core goal and is the main goal among the SDGs. Organizations should give Poverty eradication priority among the other plans. New and better ways of ending poverty need to be invented since poverty elimination faces many challenges, such as climate change, which affects all aspects of development (SDG,2018). Although Unilever is making more of its brands available widely, poverty remains a significant problem in society. Unilever has failed to achieve poverty eradication with fewer partnerships with other organizations worldwide to help those who lack food.
Unilever should increase donations to marginalized areas while creating more job opportunities for the affected groups and regions worldwide. Unilever should support small-scale businesses by offering small loans and financial support. Small scale farmers also need help with fertilizer, manure, seeds, irrigation water, and chemicals to prevent diseases (SDG,2018). Small scale farmers need to be highly supported because farming contributes to a significant percentage of food worldwide. Unilever should collaborate with non-governmental organizations to provide relief food to the adversely affected areas. Although Unilever has tried to support this goal of poverty eradication, many challenges are encountered, and poverty remains a major world problem.
In conclusion, sustainable development is essential in achieving human development goals and meeting human needs. Sustainable development goals are designed to help achieve a sustainable environment and future. Achieving sustainability requires both economic, social, and natural resources. Organizations should incorporate sustainability without negatively impacting the people and the employee. Unilever as an organization has tried to align its work and strategies with sustainable development goals, and other organizations should do the same to create a better world and environment for all.
Purvis, B., Mao, Y., & Robinson, D. (2019). Three pillars of sustainability: in search of conceptual origins. Sustainability Science, 14(3), 681-695.
Klimek, D., & Jędrych, E. (2020). A model for the sustainable management of enterprise capital. Sustainability, 13(1), 183.
de Sousa Jabbour, A. B. L., Luiz, J. V. R., Luiz, O. R., Jabbour, C. J. C., Ndubisi, N. O., de Oliveira, J. H. C., & Junior, F. H. (2019). Circular economy business models and operations management. Journal of cleaner production, 235, 1525-1539.
SDG, U. (2018). Sustainable development goals. United Nations.
Dmitrievna, K. K. (2021). Transformation of Business Sustainability Strategies of FMCG Companies in the 21st Century on the Examples of Unilever and L’Oréal.