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Unilever sets out plans to build a more equitable society


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Sydney, 21 January, 2021: Unilever today announced a wide-ranging set of global commitments and actions to help build a more equitable and inclusive society by preparing people for the future of work, creating opportunities through inclusivity, and raising living standards across its value chain.

Unilever’s main global commitments include:

  • Pioneering new employment models for our employees, and equipping 10 million young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities, by 2030
  • Spending €2 billion (approximately AUD$3.52 billion) annually with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups, by 2025
  • Ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to the company earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030

Unilever Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) CEO, Nicky Sparshott says the commitments come at a critical time, when communities and businesses need more support than ever.

“The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality, and this past year has only widened this divide. Unilever Australia and New Zealand’s strength as a business is critically linked to our ability to serve our communities. Without a healthy society, without a healthy environment, there cannot be a healthy business.

“While we are proud of our social achievements to date, we know there is always more to be done and in 2021 we’re going to be doubling down on our ambitions even further. Protecting lives and livelihoods, and empowering people to thrive will be critical as we tackle the issues of today and in the future.”

Preparing people for the future of work

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, as well as people beyond our organisation, for the societal and technological changes that are taking place. As such, we will ensure that all employees are reskilled or upskilled to have a future-fit skillset, by 2025.

We will also pioneer new employment models and provide our people with flexible employment options, by 2030. In December 2020, Unilever New Zealand began to trial a four-day work week at full pay, becoming the first global company to do so in Aotearoa.

Ms Sparshott says: “The trial is a way for our team to explore new, lateral ways to be productive, and achieve even better physical and mental wellbeing in doing so. This is about removing the barriers that limit value creation and slow us down and focusing our energies on creating impact and delivering results.”

In addition to the four-day work week trial, we will pilot new ways of working such as flexible employment contracts including job shares and 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 10 million young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities, by 2030. In Australia, we have partnered with local universities including the University of Technology, University of Sydney, University of NSW, and Macquarie University to run workshops, competitions, and participate in panels which aim to help students become career ready and show them the variety of jobs available.

As part of our new commitments, we will be 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.

Creating opportunities through inclusivity

It is 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. Half (54%) of management positions across our Australian and New Zealand workforce are currently held by women and last year we achieved gender balance across our management globally, but there is more work to do.

Through a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy, we are removing barriers 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.

Ms Sparshott said: “While gender equality and LGBTQI+ have been focus areas for the last few years, we have also started focusing our resources on Indigenous communities and people with a disability. Through the framework of a Reconciliation Action Plan, we look forward to identifying new ways to contribute to this space and formalising our commitment to the intergenerational upward mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We also know we cannot be an inclusive organisation unless we ensure that we have created the conditions and the culture for people with a disability to thrive. We have created our first-ever global employee resource group for people with a disability and their allies, called Enable@Unilever, and we will work with local partners to help us unlock this opportunity.”

Our work to drive diversity and inclusion will extend beyond our people and our operations, through our commitment to spend €2 billion (approximately AUD$3.52 billion) annually with diverse suppliers, by 2025. We are also launching a new Supplier Development Programme that will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities. 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+.

While some of our local brands are already focused on increasing supplier diversity, we know we need to go much further. We also want to use the strength of our brands, and our position as the second largest advertiser in the world, to drive change which is why we’ve committed to increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera.

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.

When people earn a living wage or income, there is also 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 and today we have committed to 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.

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.

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About Unilever

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 employs 1,000 people locally and has offices and manufacturing facilities in Australia and New Zealand. Unilever has around 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Dove, Rexona, Lynx, Vaseline, OMO/Persil, Surf, TRESemme, Toni & Guy, Continental, Ben & Jerry’s and Streets.

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.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit For more information on the USLP:

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