Case Description: A Matter of Involvement – Unilever and Indian Cottonseed Cultivation

  • Wim Dubbink
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 28)


On 3 May 2003 a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) accused the multinational Unilever of being involved in child labour in India’s cottonseed industry. The company responded by emphatically denying any direct or indirect involvement in child labour. In the public uproar that followed, the coalition of NGOs and Unilever disputed the truth of almost any fact the opposing party produced, including facts concerning the severity and the extent of child labour; even if all parties agreed that child labour is common in the cottonseed industry and that neither Unilever nor its first tier suppliers have employed children themselves. The concrete demands being made of the multinationals and the grounds upon which these where based, almost got lost in the discussion. Upon closer inspection these revolve around four issues: the extent of Unilever’s chain responsibility; Unilever’s supposed historical blame for child labour in the cottonseed industry; The reasonableness of Unilever having to assume a positive duty to help fight child labour; And the level of precautions the company must take to prevent indirect involvement in child labour.


Corporate Social Responsibility Supply Chain Child Labour International Labour Organisation Seed Company 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of HumanitiesTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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