Unilever builds a more equitable and inclusive society across its value chain

Unilever has 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.

The company commits to ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to the company earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030; Spending €2 billion annually with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups, by 2025; and 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.”

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.

Unilever’s ambition is to improve living standards for low-paid workers worldwide. The company will therefore ensure that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030.

Unilever has already paid its 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. The company will work with its 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, Unilever 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 the company works with are often retailers who run independent stores, outlets and kiosks, or micro-entrepreneurs making sales in the streets or house-to-house.

Unilever 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.

In addition to improving living standards through economic inclusion, it is also critical that Unilever creates 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 the company, Unilever will achieve an equitable culture through progressive policies and practices which eliminate bias and discrimination. They 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, Unilever is removing barriers and bias in recruitment, establishing leadership accountability for supporting all its employees to excel in their roles, and aiming to achieve a workforce that is representative of the population in the countries where they operate.

The company’s work to drive diversity and inclusion will extend beyond its people and its 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 its spend, Unilever will support these businesses with a new Supplier Development Programme that will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities. The company will promote supplier diversity throughout our value chain, encouraging our suppliers to have diversity amongst their respective partners.

Unilever also wants to use the strength of its brands, and its position as the second-largest advertiser in the world, to drive change. They will increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on-screen and behind the camera. Unilever will help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people.

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