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Some months ago I called your attention to the amazing work Dannon was doing in Bangladesh. Now the CEO of Unilever is talking about the end of CSR and the rise of sustainable development. Wow! This sounds promising, and Unilever has a number of exciting projects that highlight its commitment to the idea. Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau tells Ethical Corporation magazine that his definition of social innovation, at least in Western markets, is "finding new products and services that meet not only the functional needs of consumers for tasty food or clean clothes but also their wider aspirations as citizens."
So what does this mean?
Unilever sees social innovation at two levels, one macro and one micro. On the Macro level Unilever wants to contribute to “cross border trade via membership in Business Action for Africa and the Investment Climate Facility. This a public-private partnership that "aims to address some of the structural bottlenecks holding back investment in Africa." The company is working with British American Tobacco and (alcoholic beverage maker) Diageo to pioneer customs reform in Kenya.”
What does it mean that their two partners here sell tobacco and alcohol? Maybe that bottleneck is intended to benefit public health?
My cynicism aside, this is a critically important discussion, and the fact that Fortune 500 companies have entered the dialogue is nothing but great. What real benefits the world will see is very much an open question, but take the time to read the complete Ethical Corporation interview.