Our people

Our performance

We performed extremely well on workplace safety and achieved our 2011 target on video conferencing and our 2011 milestone on Lamplighter. We made steady progress on the others.

  • 1 achieved
  • 7 on-plan
  • 0 off-plan
  • 0 missed target

Our approach

Our employees are essential to our business success and to achieving the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets. It is in our interest to ensure that all 171,000 of them are healthy, motivated and committed.

Complementing our targets are three important areas which we keep under regular review - diversity, human and labour rights and training.


Unilever is an extremely diverse organisation in terms of its ethnic and cultural make-up. The Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) comprises managers from five countries and the top 100 executives come from over 20.

However, our gender mix is not what we want it to be. Although we have three female Non-Executive Directors on the Board, there is only one woman on the ULE.

We are tackling the issue through a diversity board chaired by the CEO and by a requirement that the shortlist for each senior job should contain a woman. Since 2007, the proportion of women in senior positions has risen from 23% to 28%.

More than 50% of our graduate recruits are women. In principle, the pipeline is being filled, but our task is to ensure many more reach the top levels.

Human and labour rights

Unilever’s approach to human and labour rights is set out in our Code of Business Principles. We are signatories to the UN Global Compact, support the ILO conventions and are working to develop a more inclusive approach to human rights based on the Ruggie principles.

However, problems do occasionally surface. In the past three years we have dealt with concerns about contract labour in Pakistan, union recognition in India and allegations of the use of child labour in Madagascar (for vanilla). That such issues arise in a business of our scale and geographic spread is no surprise. The real test is that they are identified and escalated to top management so that they are resolved. The child labour accusation was dealt with swiftly and the labour issue in Pakistan was resolved via mediation through the OECD.


Unilever has a strong reputation for the quality of its management and workplace training. In 2011, 128,000 people were registered for the Unilever Learning Academy’s courses. Much of our training is now delivered online through over 7,600 training modules. For example, in 2011 over 95% of our managers completed the first of a new set of modules on our Code of Business Principles.

A particular challenge for 2012 and beyond is to build our understanding and capability on sustainability. Already over 6,000 people have completed a Unilever Sustainable Living Plan e-module. In future we will embed sustainability into our core training for business functions.

Reduce workplace injuries and accidents

8.1We aim for zero workplace injuries. By 2020 we will reduce the Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) for accidents in our factories and offices by 50% versus 2008.

  • 40% reduction in TRFR at end 2011 compared to 2008,† from 2.1 to 1.26 accidents per 1 million hours worked.

More on reducing workplace injuries and accidents

We are among the leaders in our industry on safety. Therefore the target to halve our accident rate is a stretching one. Our performance in 2011 is a positive first step towards our goal.

† 2011 data is preliminary.

Improve employee health and nutrition

Our Lamplighter employee programme aims to improve the nutrition, fitness and mental resilience of employees. By 2010 it had already been implemented in 30 countries,reaching 35,000 people.

8.2In 2011 we aimed to extend the reach of Lamplighter to a further eight countries. We will implement Lamplighter in an additional 30 countries between 2012 and 2015. Our longer-term goal is to extend it to all the countries where we operate.

  • Lamplighter was rolled out to 11 countries in 2011.

More on improving employee health and nutrition

Our medical and occupational health strategy addresses the top three health risks we have identified: mental health; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury). Lamplighter is key to addressing these.

Reduce employee travel

8.3We are investing in advanced video conferencing facilities to make communication easier while reducing travel for our employees. By 2011 this network will cover more than 30 countries.

  • 54 countries were covered by end 2011.

More on reducing employee travel

We exceeded our 2011 target. We use telepresence in 26 countries and this system alone eliminated the need for around 14,500 short-haul and over 23,500 long-haul flights. It saved us €39.5 million in costs and 113,500 tonnes in CO2 emissions.

Reduce energy consumption in our offices

8.4By 2020 we will halve the energy (kWh) purchased per occupant for the offices in our top 21 countries versus 2010.

  • In 2011 we made steady progress in developing our systems for sharing information, reporting progress and monitoring performance.

More on reducing energy consumption in our offices

We are starting to see the results of several initiatives. For example, in the UK we have been improving the efficiency of our servers, avoiding approximately €535,000 in energy costs – equivalent to 4.5 GWh.

In 2011 we piloted software tools which automatically shut down inactive PCs, saving around 25% in PC energy consumption. The software will be rolled out globally in 2012.

Reduce office waste

8.5In our top 21 countries, at least 90% of our office waste will be reused, recycled or recovered by 2015 and we will send zero waste to landfill by 2017.

8.6By 2015 we will reduce paper consumption by 30% per head in our top 21 countries.

8.7We will eliminate paper in our invoicing, goods receipt, purchase order processes, financial reporting and employee expense processing by 2015, where legally allowable and technically possible.

  • Several countries are moving towards zero waste.
  • We continue to cut paper use by encouraging employees to print less and reducing the number of printers. A new global print standard will help reduce volumes further by ensuring that duplex printing becomes a default setting.
  • The elimination of paper from our office processes is complex as it spans a number of business functions. We are mapping our existing processes and their impacts.

Increasing sustainable sourcing of office materials

8.8By 2013 we will source all paper-based office materials for our top 21 countries from either certified sustainable forests or recycled sources.

  • 90% of our paper-based materials came from certified sustainable forests or recycled sources in 2011.

More on increasing sustainable sourcing of office materials

In 2011 we received supporting evidence from suppliers accounting for 90% of our spend that their paper-based materials were sustainably sourced.

Since 2009, our contracts with equipment suppliers in Europe have required that our printers or copiers should be compatible with recycled paper use. We have extended this requirement to cover all new print contracts for our offices worldwide.