Unilever commits to help build a more inclusive society
London, 21 January, 2021- Unilever today announced a wide-ranging set of commitments and actions to help build a more equitable and inclusive society by raising living standards across its value chain, creating opportunities through inclusivity, and preparing people for the future of work.
Unilever’s main commitments include:
- Ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to the company earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030. In 2015, Unilever achieved accreditation as a Living Wage Foundation employer covering its entire UK workforce and regular contractors on its UK sites.
- Spending €2 billion annually with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups, by 2025
- Pioneering new employment models for our employees, and equipping 10m young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities, by 2030
Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explained, “The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality. The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent, and offers opportunities for everyone.
“We believe the actions we are committing to will make Unilever a better, stronger business; ready for the huge societal changes we are experiencing today – changes that will only accelerate. Without a healthy society, there cannot be a healthy business.”
Raising living standards
Ensuring that people earn a living wage or income is a critical step towards building a more equitable and inclusive society. It allows people to afford a decent standard of living, covering a family’s basic needs: food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transportation, clothing; and includes a provision for unexpected events. A living wage should allow workers to participate fully in their communities and help them break the cycle of poverty.
In addition, when people earn a living wage or income, there is a direct benefit to the economy, as it stimulates consumer spending, aids job creation, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover and improves job productivity and quality – overall creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth.
Our ambition is to improve living standards for low-paid workers worldwide. We will therefore ensure that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030. We already pay our employees at least a living wage, and we want to secure the same for more people beyond our workforce, specifically focusing on the most vulnerable workers in manufacturing and agriculture. We will work with our suppliers, other businesses, governments and NGOs – through purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy – to create systemic change and global adoption of living wage practices.
In parallel, we will also help 5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in our retail value chain grow their business through access to skills, finance and technology, by 2025. The SMEs we work with are often retailers who run independent stores, outlets and kiosks, or micro-entrepreneurs making sales in the streets or house-to-house. We will provide them with access to digital tools, financial inclusion and services, and public–private models that support social entrepreneurship, to help them grow their business and their income.
Creating opportunities through inclusivity
In addition to improving living standards through economic inclusion, it is also critical that we create more opportunities for people from under-represented groups – both within and outside our organisation. Diversity in the workplace directly results in improved financial performance through its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy.
Within our organisation, we will achieve an equitable culture through progressive policies and practices which eliminate bias and discrimination. We are proud to have achieved already gender balance across our management globally, but there is more work to do – for women, and for other people. Through a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy, we are removing barriers and bias in recruitment, establishing leadership accountability for supporting all our employees to excel in their roles, and aiming to achieve a workforce that is representative of the population in the countries where we operate.
Our work to drive diversity and inclusion will extend beyond our people and our operations, through our commitment to spend €2 billion annually with diverse suppliers, by 2025. These suppliers will be small and medium-sized businesses owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and LGBTQI+. In addition to our spend, we will support these businesses with a new Supplier Development Programme that will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities. We will promote supplier diversity throughout our value chain, encouraging our suppliers to have diversity amongst their respective partners.
We also want to use the strength of our brands, and our position as the second largest advertiser in the world, to drive change. We will increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera. We will help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people.
For more information on how we’re driving progress on Diversity & Inclusion in the UK & Ireland, please visit our D&I web pages.
Preparing people for the future of work
As we help to build a more equitable and inclusive society, we recognise that changes to the world of work will affect the employment prospects of many people. Many current ways of working – roles, places, hours, skills – are rapidly evolving. We have a responsibility to generate and sustain employability, by preparing our employees and other people beyond our organisation for the societal and technological changes that are taking place.
We will ensure that all employees are reskilled or upskilled to have a future-fit skillset, by 2025. While we may not be able to offer permanent, full-time, fixed jobs for life, we want to ensure that our employees are equipped with the skills required to protect their livelihoods, whether within or outside of Unilever. In addition to skills development, we will pioneer new employment models and provide our people with flexible employment options, by 2030. Partnering with our unions and employee representatives, we will develop and pilot new ways of working, to offer both security and flexibility. These include options such as flexible employment contracts with benefits such as pension plans, or offering time off work to study or re-train. This will create an environment that values openness and adaptability, elevates talent and performance, and builds resilience.
Beyond our organisation, we will help equip 10m young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities, by 2030. By investing in skills-building and providing work experience opportunities for young people, we will drive growth, and accelerate digital capabilities; building expertise and increasing productivity. We are working with partners on LevelUp – a youth employability platform – to provide a one-stop shop for young people to discover their purpose, get access to training, volunteering and work experiences. We will also grow our apprenticeship schemes around the world, and work with our suppliers and distributors, to build vocational skills and share job opportunities, to help young people to get into work.
UK and Ireland case studies:
In the UK, Unilever has created a new model of employment called U-Work which it is making available to its current employees and alumni. This is in response to the increasing number of people who are looking for a different, more flexible type of relationship with the organisations they work with for a variety of lifestyle reasons such as phasing into retirement, looking after family, going back to study or wanting to work for other companies.
U-Work employees are not contractors or freelancers – they receive a regular monthly retainer but don’t work with Unilever all the time and are able to work for other organisations if they choose. When they do work on an assignment they get paid the rate for the job on top of their monthly retainer. A U-Work employee also receives benefits; these include a pension, support with healthcare, sick pay, holiday pay and investment in their learning and development.
U-Work was introduced in 2019 and initially piloted in 2 of our UK sites. Following success in the pilots, in late 2020 U-Work was rolled out to all UK based employees with 220 employees so far registering an interest in working this way. As well as meeting the needs of our employees, it supports the business.
In the UK, we have over 300 apprentices in our business, with around 100 joining each year, giving young people on-the-job experience and training with roles across the business, with the opportunity to apply for roles once their apprenticeship finishes
To diversify our recruitment outreach, we work with partners such as The Amos Bursary, Movement To Work, King’s College London, UpReach, to offer work experience, mentorship and insight sessions for those that face unfair disadvantage and additional barriers to employment opportunities. We continue to see these programmes grow every year.
Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International, commented: “Unilever’s plan shows the kind of responsible action needed from the private sector that can have a great impact on tackling inequality, and help to build a world in which everyone has the power to thrive, not just survive. We welcome Unilever’s commitments for living wages and farmer incomes in the global supply chain – an important step in the right direction – and are proud to have been a partner of Unilever as it formed this ambitious new plan. How it is implemented is also crucial. We will work alongside Unilever as it does this, helping it to deliver for under-represented groups, to accelerate their systemic changes and to shift industry practice and laws.”
Professor John Ruggie, Harvard University, Former U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, member of the Unilever Sustainability Advisory Council, commented: “The right to an adequate standard of living is a fundamental human right – sadly one that many of millions of people around the world are unable to access. Decent work, enough to adequately maintain yourself and your family not only helps people escape poverty but helps economic and social development too. So I commend Unilever for its foresighted announcement today as it continues the evolution of its social ambition, founded on the respect for human rights.”
Notes to editors
The respect and promotion of all human rights throughout our operations and business relationships remains the foundation of how we do business, and underpins our new social commitments and actions.
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 150,000 employees and generated sales of €52 billion in 2019. Over half of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has around 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Dove, Knorr, Dirt Is Good, Rexona, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, Lux, Magnum, Axe, Sunsilk and Surf.
Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) underpins the company’s strategy and commits to:
- Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.
- Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030.
- Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.
The USLP creates value by driving growth and trust, eliminating costs and reducing risks. The company’s sustainable living brands delivered 78% of total growth and 75% of turnover in 2019. Since 2010 we have been taking action through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being, halve our environmental footprint and enhance the livelihoods of millions of people as we grow our business. We have made significant progress and continue to expand our ambition – in 2019 committing to ensure 100% of our plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While there is still more to do, we are proud to have been recognised in 2019 as sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and in 2020 - for the tenth-consecutive year - as the top ranked company in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders survey.
Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.
This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including 'forward-looking statements' within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as 'will', 'aim', 'expects', 'anticipates', 'intends', 'looks', 'believes', 'vision', or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the 'Group'). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.
Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever's global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever's ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever's investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; the effect of climate change on Unilever's business; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group's filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Annual Report on Form 20-F 2019 and the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2019.