LONDON — Unilever on Jan. 21 revealed company goals designed to increase wages, the diversity of its suppliers and the number of young people who have essential skills.
By 2030, everyone who directly provides goods and services to the company will need to earn at least a living wage or income. By 2025, London-based Unilever plans to spend €2 billion ($2.44 billion) annually with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups. By 2030, Unilever wants to equip 10 million young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities.
“The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality,” said Alan Jope, chief executive officer of Unilever. “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.”
When people earn a living wage, it stimulates consumer spending, aids job creation, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover, and improves job productivity and quality, according to Unilever, which already pays its employees at least a living wage. Unilever plans to work with its suppliers, other businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy. Unilever plans to help 5 million small- and medium-sized enterprises in its retail value chain gain access to skills, finance and technology by 2025.
By under-represented groups, Unilever means small- and medium-sized suppliers owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex). Unilever also plans to increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera.
By 2025, Unilever wants to ensure all its employees are reskilled or upskilled so they will have the skills to protect their livelihoods, whether within or outside of Unilever. Beyond Unilever, the company will help equip 10 million young people with essential skills, including digital capabilities. Unilever is working with partners on LevelUp, a youth employment program, to help young people gain access to training, volunteering and work experiences.
“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,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, which seeks to end poverty and injustice. “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.”