Our business contributes to the economic well-being of many communities across our value chain, whether through employment, up skilling or linkage into our extended supply chain.
In developing and emerging markets we have an even greater impact on livelihoods. This is because our supplier and distribution networks involve millions of small-scale farmers, distributors and retailers. Most smallholder farmers grow their crops on less than 2 hectares of land. They are often held back from improving their incomes because of their lack of knowledge of up-to-date farming practices. If smallholders have access to training, better quality seeds and fertiliser they can significantly increase their yields. This benefits Unilever. As we grow our business in developing and emerging markets, we will be sourcing more agricultural materials grown by smallholders. If they prosper and their incomes improve, they will be able to invest and we will have greater certainty of supply and, often, better quality raw materials for our food products.
Investing in smallholders
We have expanded the number of smallholders we reach with training and increased our investment. But we still have much to do to demonstrate the impact of our work on their livelihoods, and how we are engaging with women farmers. Smallholders and their practices are diverse which makes the task of measuring the benefits of our interventions more difficult. Nevertheless we want to co-develop a simple, cost-effective method to show that our interventions do improve smallholders’ livelihoods.
As the world’s largest purchaser of black tea we led the way with Rainforest Alliance to certify our tea supply. We are now purchasing cocoa certified by Rainforest Alliance and we are part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) Smallholders Task Force where we are collectively working on how best to achieve sustainable certification for palm oil smallholders.
Unilever is committed to respecting and promoting human rights and good labour practices. The adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights has led us to re-think how we should integrate human and labour rights strategies across our business and value chain. To tackle this, in early 2013 we created a new role of Global Vice President for Social Impact. We recognise that we have more work to do in this area.
Boosting women's incomes
The impact of economically empowering women has a magnifier effect on lifting families out of poverty. For example, in India, as a result of a partnership between the Maharashtra government and Hindustan Unilever, a woman entrepreneur was able to invest in a tomato processing plant, contracting supplies from 600 smallholder farmers. We trained the farmers in sustainable agricultural practices which contributed to high-quality tomatoes for our Kissan Ketchup brand. In our Shakti rural sales operation, earnings usually double household incomes. For many, these new earnings mean they can realise their ambition to provide a good education for their children.
Sustainable, profitable growth depends on our people
We expect all our employees to observe high standards of behaviour in their everyday work, reflecting our values of integrity, respect, responsibility and demonstrating a pioneering spirit. Sustainable, profitable growth can only be achieved if we have the right people working for an organisation that is fit to win, underpinned by a culture in which performance is always aligned to our values.
Human & labour rights
Our Code of Business Principles and Supplier Code set out our commitment to human and labour rights and specifically to treat our employees and business partners with dignity, integrity and fairness.
The Board of Unilever is responsible for ensuring adherence to these commitments and our senior management has responsibility for overseeing their implementation and ensuring that any breaches of our Codes are investigated. We expect and encourage employees to bring any breach of our Codes to our attention.
Like many other companies, we have been undertaking a comprehensive assessment of how best to operationalise and implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including reviewing our Code Policies and ensuring alignment with our Sustainable Living Plan. In early 2013 we appointed a Global Vice President for Social Impact to lead this integration. This assessment was also informed by a two-year research project by Oxfam, Labour Rights in Unilever’s Supply Chain, published in early 2013. Oxfam used our Vietnamese operations as its main case study and made six recommendations for our business.
These are based around supporting workers’ livelihoods, providing human rights training within the organisation, implementing more ways in which workers can raise areas of concern and working closely with suppliers and partners to ensure standards are met. We are reviewing our Vietnamese supply chain in light of the recommendations.
The report also has implications for our business globally and we are studying how we can promote sustainable livelihoods for all our workers and those in our value chains and will review our use of temporary workers. We will look at our suppliers’ understanding of our Supplier Code and ensure that our own operations meet the same standards as we expect of our suppliers. We will also develop key performance indicators on labour and human rights.
Recognising that progress can best be made by working together, we will work with others including industry, NGOs, trade unions and business partners to mainstream the integration of human and labour rights into our business.
We celebrate the diversity of people, believe in inclusion and respect people for who they are and what they bring. Women make up more than 75% of our consumer base. Our workforce must take account of this.
The proportion of women in management positions increased from 39% in 2011 to 41% in 2012. After a decade of steady improvement, achieving an increase of more than 1% shows progress – but we recognise there is still a long way to go. We have three women Non-Executive Directors on the Board (25%) and propose to appoint two more in 2013. In 2012 we appointed a second woman to the Unilever Leadership Executive.