Statesmen and philosophers have grappled with the question of what it means to live a good life for millennia. The question of what it means to be a good company is certainly newer but perhaps no easier to answer. Does it mean responding principally to shareholder demands? Or does it require special efforts, ensuring employee wellbeing and long-term sustainability? In an age of populist anger pointed at multinational corporations, Unilever sets the bar higher than any other when it comes to being a good company.
Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, owning brands like Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Vaseline. It also harvests palm oil, notorious for causing deforestation in tropical zones where sharecroppers plant fields illegally. But the company’s attempts at creating benevolent capitalism are exemplary:
“Through recycling and efficiency drives, three-quarters of Unilever’s manufacturing sites now send no non-hazardous waste to landfills. Carbon emissions in its manufacturing operations are one-third lower than in 2008, through a combination of cleaner technologies and greater efficiency.”
In an interview with Martin Sorrell, CEO of the multinational advertising firm WPP, Big Think discussed what it means to be a “good” company:
By 2020, Unilever aims to help one billion people worldwide improve their health and wellbeing and believes that Milton Friedman’s view of business being responsible first to its shareholders is interpreted too narrowly. Ultimately, the company will have to convince its consumers and shareholders to buy into its business plan, which means reducing personal energy use and giving up things like quarterly earnings reports.
Read more at the Economist
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