Unilever and Oxfam: Understanding the Impacts of Business on Poverty (B)
N. Craig Smith and Robert J. Crawford
Volume 5: 2008, pp. 95-112; ABSTRACT
In 2005, Unilever and Oxfam reported on their collaboration to better understand the impacts of business on poverty, based on a study of Unilever Indonesia (UI). The Unilever and Oxfam (B) case identifies the key learning from the project, both in regard to the impacts of business on poverty and 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 employment effects (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 impacts on low income consumers (e.g., advertising and whether UI was meeting or creating needs). Oxfam developed a better understanding of the potential of value chains to generate employment and income (especially at the retail distribution end) and of the differences in social performance between MNCs. Unilever gained a better appreciation of its impacts 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 collaborations.