Unilever and Oxfam: Understanding the Impacts of Business on Poverty (B)

Published 18 Apr 2008
Reference 5522
Region Asia

In 2005, Unilever and Oxfam reported on their collaboration to understand the impacts of business on poverty, based on a study of Unilever Indonesia (UI). Case B identifies the key learning from the project both in this respect and in what the two organizations learnt from each other. Business impacts were assessed at the macro-economic level (e.g., tax revenues, UI’s role during the Asian financial crisis) and in terms of the effect on employment (e.g., number of jobs provided, conditions of employment). The UI value chain was studied from supply through distribution (e.g., sourcing implications for small farmers, share of value created through the chain), as well as UI’s impact on low-income consumers (e.g., advertising and whether UI was meeting or creating needs). Oxfam developed a better grasp of the potential of value chains to generate employment and income (especially at the retail distribution end) and of the differences in social performance among MNCs. Unilever gained a better appreciation of its impact on the value chain, especially as a “job multiplier”, and hence its social contribution. Both parties felt the project had established a precedent and a set of processes for future corporate-NGO collaboration.

Teaching objectives

1. To examine the role of MNCs in poverty alleviation in developing countries and its implications for corporate social responsibility (CSR) asking, specifically, how much is enough? What are the limits of CSR? 2. To explore stakeholder engagement in the form of corporate?NGO cooperation and, more specifically, the scope and mechanisms for effective collaboration between corporations and NGOs. 3. To consider the implications of CSR for corporate strategy and marketing practices in the particular context of corporations operating in developing countries.

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • poverty
  • developing countries
  • nongovernmental organisations
  • Indonesia
  • stakeholder engagement
  • RD1108
  • AR0809
  • AR2008