Charity Crunch Time

Illustration for TIME by Jon Krause

Like most multinational corporations, Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch household-products giant, is feeling the sting of the global recession. But at least one part of Unilever's empire is doing fine. Several years ago, the company launched a corporate-social-responsibility (CSR) program, in which it hired thousands of Indian women to sell the company's soaps, detergents and other items in their home villages, most of them too small and remote to rate a visit from a Unilever sales representative. The program, called Shakti (Energy), was meant to aid some of the company's poorest customers, but it has accomplished more than that. The 40,000...

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