Assessing the social and environmental policies of food companies

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands report is an excellent review of the social and environmental policies of the ten largest food and drink companies.

The report looks at companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Nestlé and the policies they adopt with regards to their supply chains. These policies have then been measured against a “scorecard” of seven criteria – the welfare of women, a fair deal for small-scale farmers, fair working conditions, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible water use, avoiding unfair “land grabs”, and overall corporate transparency.

Unsurprisingly the companies do not come out of this review that well Continue reading

Unilever’s latest hand washing initiative – Will education really change behaviour?

Last week the Unilever brand Lifebuoy launched a campaign to promote hand washing with soap in order to reduce the number of children who die before they are five years old from infections such as diarrhoea.

The campaign has “adopted” the Indian village of Thesgora, which has one of the highest rates of diarrhoea infection in India and aims to “provide handwashing education to children and their families“.

This laudable aim is part of Unilever’s positioning as a responsible business – simultaneously generating social good and shareholder profit. Unilever’s CEO. Paul Polman, when launching the campaign said Continue reading

Is education the best way for Unilever to increase ethical purchasing behaviour?

In a recent Financial Times article (registration needed) by Michael Skapinker Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman shared his views on the slow uptake of ethical consumer purchasing behaviour, “We’ve seen limited consumer understanding on buying products that come from illegal deforestation… Consumers don’t value yet if your margarine comes from sustainable palm oil or not. So you have to do an educational programme.”

Do consumers really need educating about the palm oil content of their margarine or shampoo? Continue reading