Is Unilever Being Socially Responsible in Marketing Fair & Lovely, a Skin Whitening Cream?

by: Aneel Karnani

Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Length: 16 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-398

Core Disciplines: Base of the Pyramid, International Business, Marketing/Sales, Strategy & Management

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Teaching Note

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Fair & Lovely, a brand of skin lightening cream owned by Unilever, is sold in more than 40 countries and has annual sales of more than $1 billion. The Fair & Lovely brand accounts for 57% of the sales in India’s skin lightening cream market. Unilever asserts that Fair & Lovely is a product designed to help individuals who aspire for a higher place in Indian society. Critics argue that the cream is targeted at women at the base-of-the-pyramid, and encourages discrimination against darker skin. This case explores whether Unilever is socially responsible, and raises questions about the limits and business implications of social responsibility.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Explore the issues of corporate social responsibility.
  • Identify the limits of corporate social responsibility.
  • Explain what business can do to support the well-being of society.
  • Identify the types of constraints that can be placed on businesses to ensure a well-functioning society.
  • Assess if placing constraints on business is a viable solution.