• Case
  • Teaching Notes

Unilever is known for historic and contemporary product innovations attractive to sanitation, health, and socially conscientious consumers. October 10, 2017, The Financial Times reported that Unilever had apologised for an advertisement deemed racist in a widespread social media outcry. This outcry ought not to have caught Unilever off guard given several similar and well documented errors of judgment. This case provides the opportunity to introduce or extend student familiarity with critical management studies by paying attention to perhaps unnoticed histories, and through examining the taken-for-granted classifications of humanity carrying selectively ingrained values, interests, and power. Through this case, stereotypes of masculinity and femininity in corporatized objects of consumption are highlighted. Opportunities, risks, and potential neo-colonial impacts of a limited social critique in corporate leadership projects are posited as examples of significant corporate influence on the social imagination. This case may also be used to consider the efficacy of diversity management projects in the face of persistent sexism and racism as an example of paradox and contradictions at the heart of the capitalist–democratic interface.

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