Unilever Indonesia Foundation
Unilever Indonesia Foundation is the primary tools of implementing the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in Indonesia.
The historic step began in 27 November 2000. The Unilever Indonesia Foundation’s (the Foundation) mission was, and is, to discover and empower potential in the community, provide added value to society, unite the strengths of its partners, and act as a catalyst for formation of partnership.
The ideas of sustainable development and growing together with the community are inseparable from the visionary concepts of former Chairman and CEO of Unilever Indonesia from 1998 to 2003, Nihal Kaviratne. As the leader of the company, he was deeply concerned with the effort to build the company’s culture through organisational transformation and change, as well as good corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.
At that time, the community empowerment programmes conducted by Unilever were still sporadic and not integrated. As a consequence, the results were far from optimal, let alone sustainable. Then the Foundation was established and given the task of conducting CSR in an integrated way.
For Unilever, the establishment of this foundation was a serious investment. This is evident from the people who were appointed to run it. The top leadership posts in the foundation, for example, were held by company executives with long experience in managing products valued at trillions rupiahs – no small investment.
Setting up the Foundation, was important to create a greater impact than that of isolated, separate community empowerment programmes. The Foundation’s existence also made it easier to keep records on the various initiatives and activities conducted by Unilever. Work programmes and budgets became tighter, because their oversight now examined not just the finances but also the results of the programmes. The success of the Foundation’s programmes also boosted the image of Unilever’s products, and of the company as a whole.
The existence of the Foundation made Unilever’s CSR activities more than mere charity. Sustainability of the programmes became a major focus. Also important was growing together with the partners in the field.
The Foundation dialogued with people to design the programme together. The new approach did not mean that Unilever Indonesia Foundation abandoned programmes of an essentially charitable nature. In certain situations, such as natural disasters and similar emergencies, charitable aid is still appropriate. However, efforts are always made to ensure that these aid programmes continue long after the emergency stage.
As to make sure the program sustainability, selecting and working with the right partners is critical. The partners can come from various backgrounds – government, NGOs, academia, or group of local community.
UIF’s programme emphasizes quality over quantity. In community economic empowerment programmes, for example, the important thing is not how much money is needed. In this, we differ from the approach taken by a bank, which assesses its customers based on the amount of credit extended and the interest on the payments. For us, the important thing is how each programme can sustainably improve the living standards of the community.