Tea and Sustainability at Unilever: Turning Over a New Leaf (B)

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: February 27, 2015
Length: 8 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-423

Core Disciplines: International Business, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Marketing/Sales, Operations Management/Supply Chain, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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Unilever has successfully rolled out an initiative to sustainably source Lipton tea, and Unilever CEO Paul Polman is wondering if the company could apply the same concepts to its wider portfolio of products. The move has triggered change throughout the industry, but questions remain as to whether sustainable sourcing would be as successful with other products. Lipton’s strategy of maintaining price point (shrinking margins) while increasing sales may not be a viable option for Unilever’s other brands. There may be pieces of the supply chain where a sustainability program would lead to higher costs. If Unilever scaled the initiative to the rest of the organization, it had to find a way to integrate sustainability into its corporate strategy, reduce environmental impact, and boost social good, all while increasing profits.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Apply a smaller strategy to the parent company’s strategy and recognize the impacts that the strategy could have on an industry.
  • Interpret the market change that can occur when a company’s sustainability strategy changes.