Equity, diversity and inclusion makes any organisation stronger. Inequality is pervasive, but change is possible. Businesses can lead the fight for a more equal, diverse and inclusive society, which also adds significant value to the business. A diverse and inclusive workforce can boost performance, reputation, innovation and motivation for any organisation – and can also bring the organisation closer to the consumer.
To this end, we at Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL) take a holistic approach that focuses on using our scale and reach to have the greatest impact: driving equity through our workplaces, brands, supply chain, and communities. We continue to invest in the capabilities of our business leaders and all employees to support equity advocacy, diversity awareness, and psychological safety. Our goals are aligned with the global sustainable development objectives and many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We want to see a society where everyone is treated equally. We are working to create a fairer, more socially inclusive world – in our business, through our brands and in wider society. We have set some clear objectives that will help us tackle inequality and drive inclusion:
- Achieve an equitable and inclusive culture by eliminating any bias and discrimination in our practices and policies
- Accelerate diverse representation at all levels of leadership
- 5% of our workforce to be made up of people with disabilities by 2025
- Increase representation of diverse groups in our advertising
Pioneering inclusive and gender sensitive growth approach
We are determined to achieve a culture where everyone can thrive, a culture where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, and where their uniqueness is celebrated. We operate in Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, and Nutrition Categories where at least half of our consumers are women; from product insight, consumer centricity and relatability- it is beneficial for our business when we have gender balance in our team, and we start representing our consumer base better in all our conversations. Driving equity, diversity and inclusion values help businesses to enhance productivity, innovation, collaboration, safety and financial returns.
At UBL, we believe in creating an inclusive work environment that goes beyond gender representation. Some of the strongest forces behind persistent gender gaps globally and in Bangladesh are harmful social norms and stereotypes that limit expectations of what women can or should do, like working in night shifts or outstation field sales positions. Challenging and changing those norms is, therefore, a vital part of our strategy, which includes gender as a critical component in our goals on culture and leadership.
We are transforming our workplaces, value chain and society at large by applying a gender lens to everything we do in pursuit of our belief that no woman should be left behind. We are transforming our business, our influence and our partnerships to drive action in the key areas of respecting rights, building skills and creating opportunities for women. That means we’re taking a holistic approach that works to build equality and empowerment throughout our value chain and beyond. Our approach includes-
Our Business: Building equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplaces and operations.
Our Supply chain: Promoting and supporting diversity in our supply chain.
Our Brands: Transforming our brands and making products more inclusive.
Our Collaborations: Working with partners and allies to create opportunities for women and to harness the power of collective action in wider society.
For us, equity, diversity, and inclusion is a journey which started with ensuring Gender Balance. Our model for action makes clear that we can only help make the changes we want to see in society if we ensure our own house is in order by focusing on our workplaces and operations.
Gender is at the heart of our strategy for achieving equity in our policies and practices, our employee experience, talent recruitment and selection, and representation and retention. We ended 2022 with 50% females in leadership level, which was less than 10% even in 2016. We also are eyeing to achieve 50:50 gender balance by 2025. Our Gender balance ratio at the managerial level is one of the highest across all industries in Bangladesh.
We have ensured that all organisational roles, from entry-level to management committee are gender neutral.
For example, men are mostly seen working as sales representatives going shop to shop, taking orders and working in a retail environment. Many have the perception that females have difficulty working at Field Level Sales roles.
We broke the bias and deployed female field representatives to work in the marketplace, gain the right knowledge, enhance their skills, which encouraged more women to follow them. At present, we have more than 300 females in our Distribution Field Force (DFF) function across Bangladesh.
Similarly, our Kalurghat Factory (KGF) is a legacy manufacturing site in Bangladesh which did not have mentionable female representation at Factory Management or Shop floor employee level. Identifying the gap, we introduced several policies and cleared roadblocks to increase female participation at the production level. As a result, we now have 250 females working at KGF at different managerial and operator roles.
However, achieving Gender Balance across the organisation was possible due to several policies and practices. We have made progress through sustained leadership accountability and awareness building, as well as programmes to recruit, retain and develop female talents.
To ensure this transformation, we have introduced several policies and initiatives. For example, we partnered with social startup Bhumijo to set up 43 women appropriate WASH facilities at our distribution houses to ensure that the females working at field-level sales operations can avail this basic requirement.
We also have policies for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) and Support of Domestic Abuse to support employees who go through such situations. We have a policy to provide Caregiver to our employees, which provides nanny service, maternal care service, and elderly care service.
To ensure organisation-wide awareness and participation, we have formed an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion council with male and female leaders and launched several initiatives, such as INSPIRIT, a collaboration of eight like-minded organisations that create a level playing field for Bangladeshi women, especially those in sales. We also have launched the STRIDE programme, which helps people come back to the workforce from career breaks, regardless of their gender. Our SHE4SHE programme is a leaning circle for women to come together and support each other physically, mentally, and emotionally.
For many years, we have been also working to recruit, train and upskill women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) - related roles within the organisation. Since 2022, over 33% of our team members in the Supply Chain and Research and Development (R&D) teams are women, and that number is expected to rise by 2025.
We visit university campuses to promote ‘future’ skills in STEM. Internally, we also host leadership talks and 1-on-1 sessions with senior STEM leaders who mentor young and mid-level employees to excel in their fields. We continue to invest in the capacity development of female factory resources. By providing women with opportunities to excel in STEM fields, we are building a stronger and more resilient, future-fit workforce.
Thinking beyond gender, leaving no one behind
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO),one in six among us is living with a disability. Persons with Disabilities (PwD) often face challenges in receiving education, family support and job opportunities to empower themselves socially and financially. At UBL, we are committed to creating opportunities for those who are disempowered and trapped in a cycle of alienation. We believe that everyone deserves a fair chance, and we ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in a structured manner.
Our inclusion approach at UBL started with making all our facilities accessible for people with disabilities, adapting inclusion in the way we work and transforming how we recruit and train our people. Our Disabilities Inclusion Programme is built on a comprehensive analysis of the physical accessibility of our sites, the accessibility of our web platforms and our recruitment processes.
We are also driving inclusion beyond gender and welcoming other forms of diversity like Transgender and People with Disabilities (PwD) at Unilever Bangladesh.
To achieve this, we conducted a series of sessions for our employees, function by function, and made them aware of the challenges PwDs face and motivated them to accept, include and recognise them in the community. We also made sure that most of our facilities have accessible washrooms, emergency evacuation chairs, and ramps for movement on wheelchairs.
Additionally, we engage in holistic role mapping to identify the roles best suited for each PwD and conduct skill-gap analysis for each PwD to understand where we should focus to enhance their knowledge and expertise. We also collaborate with external stakeholders like a2i (Aspire to Innovate) for their skill-based capability plan for the diffability pool, with training and learning sessions, and evaluate their performance.
Together for Change
Rin Naamkora Nari
What is in a name? An identity? A sense of recognition? For a woman, it is their way through the glass ceiling. However, for a very long time, it has denied them their moment in the spotlight, their right to be known in their own identity, their own name.
A woman goes through multiple stages, multiple renditions of different identities in her lifetime. As a teenager, she would be identified as someone’s daughter. As an adult, she would be known as someone’s wife or sister. She would be known as someone’s mother during the later stages of life. Throughout these stages, the name she was born with gets lost in her relationships.
To inspire women to create their own name and identity in society, RIN, the number one fabric cleaning brand in Bangladesh, launched this platform, “RIN Namkora Nari,” on International Women’s Day 2022. Different skill sets of women have been highlighted through this platform. On this nationwide platform, Rin has been trying to recognise the stories of numerous talented women so that everyone knows them by their own identities.
The way Rin keeps your clothes bright; it wants to give women an opportunity to shine in their own name along with their initiatives in the same manner. Up until now, more than forty thousand women have registered on this platform.
We promoted this platform across different media channels. From the pack of our product to newspaper, television, and social media ads, we made people aware of the stories of these remarkable women. Rin Namkora Nari has already received a Grand Prix, 3 Digital Marketing Awards, 4 COMMWARDS, and a Gold in Goafest 2023, which is the biggest media award in South Asia.
A beacon of inclusion
We are committed to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace that represents its consumer base. With a strong leadership commitment and a culture that fosters inclusion beyond gender, UBL's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity is not only reflected in its workforce but also in its brands, supply chain, and communities, as it aims to create a sustainable living commonplace for all.