Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace is about respecting the rights of all those who work with us.

Millions of people work in our operations and extended supply chain, helping us create the products used by billions more. For us, fairness in the workplace is about respecting, and advancing, their human rights - everywhere we operate, and in everything we do.

Our guiding principle is that business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, advanced and upheld. We believe respecting and promoting human rights forms the foundation for a healthy, sustainable and equitable business, and are essential for effective relationships with everyone we depend on. This is reflected throughout the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and in many areas of this Sustainable Living Report, including in Sustainable sourcing, Opportunities for women, and Inclusive business.

Through the work described in the Fairness in the Workplace section of this report, we aim to contribute to a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily: Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), and Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10). Underpinning the achievement of these goals is SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals. See our Human Rights Report (PDF | 10MB) for how our activities support other SDGs.

By working in collaboration with others and through a process of continuous improvement, we aim to achieve fairness in the workplace for all the people with whom we work.

Our strategy

We will drive fairness in the workplace by advancing human rights across our operations and in our extended supply chain.

Worker on production line

Why fairness in the workplace matters to us

We want to deliver positive social impact as well as business growth – it is fundamental to our purpose as a business. Fairness in the workplace is a vital element of maintaining people's trust in our business - and is directly linked to our licence to operate, and to the reputation of Unilever and our brands. It contributes to business continuity, helps us attract and retain the best talent, increases productivity, and builds long-term value to shareholders. We’ve set a number of targets to advance human rights and to enhance the health and safety of our employees.

Our approach to human rights

We aim to uphold and promote human rights in three main ways:

  • In our operations by upholding our values and standards.
  • In our relationships with our suppliers and other business partners.
  • By working through external initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact, the Consumer Goods Forum and the Institute of Human Rights and Business to name a few.

We focus on our ‘salient’ human rights issues - that is, those that are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through our activities or business relationships.

This approach is in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which we endorsed in 2011. We use the Guiding Principles to underpin our own high standards of corporate behaviour: they help us to identify and tackle systemic causes of abuse, and to work collaboratively and openly with others. We continue to align our policies with the Guiding Principles – for example, by strengthening our Code of Business Principles and our internal Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy.

Our policies and codes drive our internal and external compliance requirements along our whole value chain. Our Framework for Fair Compensation sets out the principles which we require all our businesses to comply with by 2020, and includes our ambition that all employees should have guaranteed fixed earnings to earn a living wage. Read more about Fair Compensation.

Our approach to health & safety

Improving our employees’ health, safety and well-being is integral to fairness in the workplace. We instil safety in the behaviour of our people and the design of our sites and products, guided by a vision of Zero: Zero fatalities; Zero injuries; Zero motor vehicle incidents; Zero process incidents; and Zero tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices.

This sits alongside our aim to promote, maintain and enhance the health of our employees to maximise their fitness to work safely and effectively. We seek to make a positive impact on their health and well-being – to bring benefits for individuals and our business – through our health promotion and protection programmes. Our strategy for medical and occupational health focuses on promoting emotional, physical, mental and purposeful well-being for our employees and preventing occupational ill-health.

Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Progress to date

Through a series of implementation activities in 2018††, we continued to embed the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights throughout Unilever’s operations, with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues (as documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports and our 2018 progress highlights). 61%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

We continued to make progress through our Framework for Fair Compensation, which outlines how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation. In 2017 we increased our ambition on the living wage element of the Framework by advancing our target from 2020 to 2018. We reached our ambition that employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to earn a living wage by 2018 for all but 611 of our employees in 16 countries.

84 countries ran our Lamplighter employee health programme and our safety performance (Total Recordable Frequency Rate) improved to 0.69 accidents per million hours worked.

Future challenges

Human rights, and our work to embed and promote respect for them, cannot be separated from the changing economic and political conditions in the markets where we operate. Rapidly changing political climates all over the world continue to generate new human rights issues or accentuate existing ones.

We are looking at the potential impact on human rights of developments in technology - sometimes called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The use of technology – and in particular digital – can bring further transparency and agility to identify the issues that workers are facing, so that we can focus on remediation, prevention and best practices. But we need to ensure that technological development doesn’t undermine the rights of workers.

At the same time, we need to carry on addressing the issues that are most salient to rights-holders, such as harassment and modern slavery.

Addressing salient human rights issues in our value chain helps us build a more resilient business. We’ll continue to make both the moral and the business case for this, while strengthening our internal capability, and the capability of our suppliers and other business partners to own and self-manage issues. We welcome and promote increasing requirements for transparency to create positive fundamental change.

 Independently assured by PwC

†† The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 573KB) for the description of activities.

* During 2017 and 2018 we amended how we assessed compliance with the Responsible Sourcing Policy, hence year-on-year data is not comparable.

Downloads

Unilever Human Rights Report 2017 (PDF | 10MB)


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Targets & performance

As part of the Fairness in the Workplace pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set ambitious targets on advancing human rights, fair compensation, improving employee health, nutrition and well-being, and reducing workplace injuries and accidents.

Fairness in the workplace
Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Our performance

Through a series of implementation activities in 2018††, we continued to embed the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights throughout Unilever’s operations, with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues (as documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports). 61%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

We continued to make progress through our Framework for Fair Compensation, which outlines how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation. We reached our ambition that employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to earn a living wage by 2018 for all but 611 of our employees in 16 countries.

84 countries ran our Lamplighter employee health programme and our safety performance (Total Recordable Frequency Rate) improved to 0.69 accidents per million hours worked.

Our perspective

We continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient issues (ie those at risk of the most severe negative impact through Unilever’s activities or business relationships) as described in our Human Rights Reports in 2015 and 2017. We published a progress update at the end of 2018.

We continue to focus on the eradication of forced labour in global supply chains and have made progress on the removal of worker recruitment fees through the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment and the Consumer Goods Forum. We rolled out our new internal policy for the Sustainable Employment of Temporary Workers.

On freedom of association, we signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Unilever, the IUF and IndustriALL Global Union, recognising the IUF and IndustriALL Global Union as the internationally representative bodies of unionised workers within our worldwide operations. The MOU underlines our commitment to ensure that throughout our operations workers can freely exercise their rights to union membership and collective bargaining.

61%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy. We published an updated breakdown of our RSP’s audit findings (PDF | 4MB) against our eight salient human rights issues in 2018. This showed that 44% of the non-conformances in 2017 related to health and safety issues: over 8,500 non-conformances were identified from just under 1,000 sites. In 2018, our inspections showed that overall 75% of non-conformances are now closed.

For our workforce, our Framework for Fair Compensation outlines how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation. In 2017 we increased our ambition on the Framework’s living wage element by advancing our target from 2020 to 2018. We reached our ambition that employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to earn a living wage by 2018 for all but 611 of our employees in 16 countries.

We introduced a more targeted Lamplighter employee health programme as well as extending the coverage of our global Employee Assistance Programme. We continued to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices. We recorded our lowest-ever employee accident rate of 0.69 accidents per million hours worked, and employee injuries from road accidents dropped to 11. But we know we always have more to do: we are sad to report that one of our employees died as a result of an accident in our factory in Thailand.

 Independently assured by PwC

†† The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation for the description of activities.

* During 2017 and 2018 we amended how we assessed compliance with the Responsible Sourcing Policy, hence year-on-year data is not comparable


  • Achieved 3

  • On-Plan 4

  • Off-Plan 0

  • %

    Of target achieved 0

Key to our performance
  • Achieved

    This is the number of targets we have achieved

  • On-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are on track to achieve

  • Off-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are currently not on track

  • %

    Of target achieved

    This is the percentage of the target we are on track to achieve

Our targets

Please see Independent assurance and our metrics for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

We will implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout our operations and report on progress publicly.

Through a series of implementation activities in 2018††, we continued to embed the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights throughout Unilever’s operations, with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues (as documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports).


Our Perspective

In 2018 we continued to embed human rights, focusing on our eight salient issues. We have new internal policies on the Sustainable Employment of Temporary Workers and Land Rights as well as a new Global Paternity Leave Standard. And we’ve continued to work to eradicate forced labour from global supply chains by strengthening the vetting process for the third-party labour agencies who provide us with temporary workers.

We have worked with international unions to address poor working conditions in the transport industry. We’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the IUF to strengthen labour rights and working conditions to demonstrate our commitment to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The Malawi Tea 2020 programme addresses living wages for tea workers and we continue to work with our suppliers to reduce working hours and improve health and safety. To help address harassment, working with UN Women we launched a Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces.

†† The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 573KB) Unilever’s Basis of Preparation for the description of activities.

Advancing human rights in our own operations

Source 100% of procurement spend in line with our Responsible Sourcing Policy

We will source 100% of our procurement spend through suppliers who commit to promote fundamental human rights as specified in our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

61%†* of procurement spend through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy in 2018.


Our Perspective

In 2018 we purchased around €34 billion of goods and services. The suppliers of these goods and services are central to driving efficiencies to enhance profitability and to helping us implement the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

In 2017 we reviewed our learning from the Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP). This resulted in improved verification and remediation requirements and better anti-bribery and corruption compliance processes, as well as a more effective way of assessing compliance with the Policy. Using our revised compliance assessment, the proportion of spend through suppliers meeting the RSP’s mandatory requirements rose from 55%* in 2017 to 61%†* in 2018.

In total, 76% of our procurement spend was through suppliers who have made a commitment to the RSP either by complying with its mandatory requirements or by signing the RSP Pledge which is the important first step in joining the programme. This represents around 33,000 suppliers.

 Independently assured by PwC

* During 2017 and 2018 we amended how we assessed compliance with the Responsible Sourcing Policy, hence year-on-year data is not comparable

Advancing human rights with suppliers & business partners

Create a framework for fair compensation

  • We will create a framework for fair compensation, starting with an analysis in 180 countries by 2015.

We will work with external organisations, including our social partners, referring to approaches such as living wage methodologies.

Through a series of activities, in 2015 we created a Framework for Fair Compensation which we rolled out in 2016. We use the Fair Wage Network to provide a global database of relevant living wage benchmark data for each country in which we have operations. This enables us to compare non-management employees’ lowest fixed earnings levels against relevant living wage benchmarks.


Our Perspective

Our Framework for Fair Compensation provides a structured way to outline how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation to our employees. We want all our businesses worldwide to comply with the principles of the Framework by 2020.

However, in 2017 we increased our ambition on the Framework’s living wage element by advancing our target from 2020 to 2018. We reached our ambition that employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to earn a living wage by 2018 for all but 611 of our employees in 16 countries. We’re working closely with our Human Resources teams in these countries to remedy this situation.

Unilever in the UK published its second Gender Pay Gap report, showing that the median hourly pay for women was 2.5% more than men, which compares favourably to the national median hourly pay where women earn 17.9% less than men.

Fair compensation

Improve employee health, nutrition and well-being

Our Lamplighter employee programme aims to improve the nutrition, fitness and mental resilience of employees. By 2010 it had already been implemented in 30 countries, reaching 35,000 people.



  • In 2011 we aimed to extend the reach of Lamplighter to a further eight countries. We will implement Lamplighter in an additional 30 countries between 2012 and 2015. Our longer-term goal is to extend it to all the countries where we operate with over 100 people.

Our Lamplighter programme reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries by 2014, achieving our target a year early. In 2018, our redesigned programme reached 84 countries.


  • We will implement a mental well-being framework globally.

In 2015 we completed the two-year roll-out of our new module for mental well-being and established a global steering committee to monitor progress.


Our Perspective

Our Lamplighter employee health programme is key to addressing the top three health risks across our business: mental well-being; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury).

Lamplighter helps to safeguard employees’ health, improve productivity and reduce costs. It reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries in 2014, fulfilling our target to reach 68 countries a year early.

We have redesigned Lamplighter to target the age and risk profile of employees. This upgraded programme encouraged 65,000* employees across 84 countries to enrol.

In 2015, we rolled out Unilever’s mental well-being module. This helps people manage pressure, offering practical advice on how to focus and practise mindfulness techniques, to feel more empowered and to work in an agile manner.

In 2018 we extended coverage of our global Employee Assistance Programme for employees and dependants and extended our well-being app, Clickwell, to another 21 countries.

* This number fluctuates from year to year as we do not cover every employee on a yearly basis

Improving employee health & well-being

Reduce workplace injuries and accidents

We aim for zero workplace injuries. By 2020 we will reduce the Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) for accidents in our factories and offices by 50% versus 2008.

Over 67% reduction in TRFR achieved by 2018, down to 0.69 from 2.10 accidents per 1 million hours worked in 2008.


Our Perspective

Our Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) continued to improve, reaching 0.69 accidents per 1 million hours worked (measured October 2017-September 2018), down from 0.89 in 2017. 2018 was our lowest-ever performance in terms of recorded injuries, but we know we always have more to do: we are sad to report that one of our employees died as a result of an accident in our factory in Thailand.

We will consider our target fully achieved once we reach 2020; until then, our challenge is to keep our performance on track. We’re continuing to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices. In manufacturing, we achieved a 39.5% reduction in process safety incidents compared to 2017, and a 51% reduction in contractors’ recordable injuries over 2014−2018. Employee injuries from road accidents also dropped to 11.

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