Paul Polman, the man in charge of Unilever has come up with a plan that he believes will improve the hygiene habits of the vast “unwashed” masses and bring them safe affordable drinking water in the process. While Mr. Polman may have the best of intentions, it is no coincidence that his plan will conveniently double sales.
To achieve his goal, the company has developed a 60 part Sustainable Living Plan. Unilever is trying to change the environment footprint of those using their soap thereby freeing up resources for future customers. However, the whole plan may blow-up in Polman’s face according to Bloomberg News. In addition to the public’s resentment over being told to take shorter showers, publicly taking a stand on sustainability invites scrutiny that Unilever not be able to withstand. Foxconn Technology Group, manufacturer of Apple iPads and Nestle have both put themselves in the spotlight with the result being their own unsavory labor practices came to light.
While Unilever should be commended for the progress it has made in reducing its own waste, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions in its manufacturing process, shaming its customers to join in may backfire. The laudable goal of increasing hand washing throughout the world is not totally altruistic and it may come back to bite them.