This paper primarily deals with the responsibility of the multi national giant Unilever's responsibility to its stakeholders. It also identifies who the stake holders are and the ethical issues involved in relation to the benchmarks and models set up by the CSR.
The Stakeholder: The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines a stake holder as "a person entrusted with the stakes of bettors" and "one that has a stake in an enterprise ". This definition takes the traditional view of the term stake holder. Another definition form the site Encarta defines stakeholder as "a person or group with a direct interest, involvement, or investment in something, e.g. the employees, stockholders, and customers of a business concern". From a legal standpoint too, stakeholder is considered to be a person holding shares or stocks in a company. All these definitions agree on one point, but disagree on others, making the issue confusing. Since this paper deals with Unilever, an analysis as to what the company thinks of the definition will be worth looking into. Unilever categorises stake holders into two groups, the first one to include all those who have direct contact with the company. They include investors, employees, customers and suppliers. The other group comprise of those who have an indirect relationship with Unilever and include the government and its various regulatory departments, non profit organisations, academics and citizens. "Our success as a company depends on good relationships with a broad range of people and organisations who have a stake in our business. With some, such as our customers, employees, suppliers and investors, the relationship is based on direct contact or financial involvement with the business. Others, such as governments and regulators, local communities, civil society organisations, academics and individual concerned citizens, have a wider interest in what we do and in our impacts on society as a whole." (Our approach, 2008).
The Stakeholders of Unilever: Customers: Unilever considers its customers to be stakeholders of the company. How customers can be considered a stakeholder can be illustrated by the following point. Unilever uses chemicals in the manufacture of its detergent brands like surf and sunlight. The company cannot use cheaper, but harmful chemicals with the aim of increasing its bottom-line. The company has a social responsibility to see that none of its customers who use the detergent have problems for their skins or clothes.
Employees: The livelihood of its employees depends on the ability of the company to pay them their salaries. The company has to remain profitable to sustain this practice. So Unilever has a responsibility to see that its operations remain profitable.
Suppliers: For a company like Unilever, there would be a large number of suppliers responsible for the supply of the variety of raw materials, services and other products required for manufacturing and administration. They have to be paid according to the conditions stipulated and it's the company's responsibility to see that it is done.
Investors: this category, as a stakeholder does not need clarification since it falls into the traditional and legal view of the term stakeholder. Any company has to ensure that their stakeholders, which include individuals and institutions, are kept happy by ensuring a favorable return on their