United Colors of Benetton

Sunday 1 June 2014, by BeatrizAb, Kasurip, mirellor

4 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Benetton Group was founded in Italy in 1965 and nowadays it is a fashion company with a worldwide presence of over 6000 stores. Benetton Group has four brands: United Colors of Benetton, Sisley, Playlife and Undercolors of Benetton. Benetton Group is characterized by colourfulness, selling quality products at reasonable prices and having passion for its work.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Benetton is a group of companies operating globally that wishes to combine economic growth with social commitment. For this reason Benetton has established and developed a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy that covers different issues and concerns, like environmental impact, concern for human rights, product safety and transparency towards their costumers and stakeholders.
Some of these actions that take part of this Social Responsibility Strategy are the following:
-  A Code of Conduct applied to all suppliers and subcontractors, and to anyone who wishes to work with them. It’s based on respect for human rights and protection of the environment. It also forces their suppliers and subcontractors to audit their activities and do environmental inspections, whose results are published by Benetton.
-  Safety and quality of products and transparency of information delivered to their customers. That includes strict control on chemicals over the entire supply chain, use of organic cotton and wool provided by companies that use animal-friendly processes.
-  Environment impact concern, which includes different initiatives to reduce their impact on it, like the zero discharge Detox commitment (elimination of hazardous chemicals from manufacturing), using liquid wood clothes hangers (they were using plastic before) or giving “Eco-friendly” paper shopping bags (100% recyclable)
Apart from all of these initiatives as a company, Benetton also has created the UNHATE Foundation, which has as a main mission to fight against hate and discrimination in all its forms. The main issues that they face through their projects are violence and discrimination against young girls and women, sexual exploitation of children and youth or the future of new generations in post conflict areas. One of their most know actions to support these projects and create awareness about these issues are the UNHATE campaigns, which use an strong and sometimes controversial message to promote human rights and acceptation of diversity or fighting against intolerance.
On the other hand, after the accident in one of their factories in Rana Plaza (Bangladesh), they committed to contribute to a significant and lasting improvement in working conditions and safety in Bangladesh. It also calls for independent safety inspections at factories and for transparency in the Bangladeshi textile supply chain.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

According to Benetton Group’s vision, creating economic value is not an end in itself but rather a means for contributing to progress. This vision is supported by the actions that Benetton has taken to raise awareness of important civil, political and social topics. Unlike many other companies in the fashion industry, Benetton is not afraid to address sensitive issues.

Benetton has demonstrated social consciousness by supporting socially meaningful causes and it is involved in initiatives such as the UNHATE Foundation that aims to create a new culture against hate. The group has also consistently promoted the acceptance of diversity. According to their website “Benetton was global before globalisation” and the group perceives fashion as something that everyone can enjoy despite political, ideological or geographical boundaries.

Benetton Group also has a non-conventional approach to marketing. Marketing campaigns have promoted important issues such as freedom of speech, youth unemployment or protecting primates. The images used in the campaigns have been unrelated to the company’s products and instead have conveyed messages about meaningful topics. For example, the debated Unhate campaign presented different world leaders kissing each other while the James & Other Apes campaign portrayed primates. Furthermore, the campaigns are not directed at specific geographical areas but rather convey a universal message. The group believes that by choosing social themes for their advertisements, they also add value to the Benetton brand. Thus, Benetton Group has managed to successfully combine ethical values with economic results.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

With regard to possible future challenges, Benetton has to be aware of organizations such as PETA or others that may attempt to boycott the company in matters such as the materials used in its manufacturing or the way the raw materials they use for their products are obtained. Benetton has experienced and faced this kind of problems in the past, highlighting the one involving the purchase of wool from farmers that were practicing a particular way obtaining the wools from the animals. This lead to the company to change their sources of supply and find new and more ethical ways of acquiring the main component they use in their clothes. Still, the company has managed to tackle the controversy that was created and has been able to remain strong by joining the cause to end animal abusive tactics in any industry.

Benetton needs to continue investing in the implementation of a powerful communication policy, in which transparency is the key factor. The way this company handles the controversies and opens its doors to the world makes it a good strategy, since it exhibits their social and environmental commitment. In fact, one can find all the projects the company is involved in, the problems it has had to face, press releases and positions that the company has taken in many situations, all together in their website. Furthermore, Benetton’s motivation to correct and address the potential negative consequences that may have derived from their business makes this company lead by example and encourage others to act in a similar manner.

Another possible source of challenge could be raised not from their business itself but from the way Benetton addresses the media efforts, specially regarding their revolutionary advertisement campaigns. Even if the meaning behind those is good, in a way that it tries to promote the “UNHATE” culture, it has to watch out for possible negative associations that some images that are used in their marketing may create within their consumers. The fact they involve a wide range of topics, mixing from fight against racisms to political and sexual issues may create different feelings in their consumers (and within cultures) and make the campaigns adopt a culture of creating shock and polemics rather than open-mindedness or union, which can in turn make people reluctant to buy their products. A way to improve without losing their identity could be to address their media power to those topics in which their product can be a link towards the solution. That means, creating campaigns that relate their product with union among social classes, races, cultures and countries (which is in fact what their slogan stands for) and avoiding sexual or abuse issues (at least of being explicitly shown).


Location: Treviso (Italy)

Sector: Manufacturing

Official website:

Key figures:

Annual revenue: 12,4 billion (2012)
Employees: 85,500 (2012)
Stores: over 6.000
Products: United Colors of Benetton, Undercolors of Benetton, Sisley, Playlife.

Nbr. visits: 2890

Nbr. inspires: 4