Unilever is kickstarting a global target to ensure that anyone who provides goods and services to the company earns at least a living wage or income, by 2030.
“The amount that defines a living wage and living income varies from country to country. In many countries it varies from state to state,” a Unilever spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We will work in partnership with external bodies and industry experts to calculate it. This will be managed by our procurement team, working alongside our suppliers.”
In line with this, the company aims to spend €2 billion (US$2.4 billion) annually with suppliers owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and LGBTQI+, by 2025.
The food giant is also rolling out new employment models that will “reskill or upskill” ten million young employees with essential aptitudes to prepare them for future job opportunities, by 2030.
“The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed,” asserts Alan Jope, Unilever CEO.
Raising living standards
Unilever, whose brands include Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, Knorr and Cup a Soup, maintains that it already pays its employees living wage.
The new target has been introduced to ensure the same is offered to people beyond its workforce, specifically focusing on the most vulnerable workers in manufacturing and agriculture.
These external small and medium-sized enterprises are often retailers who run independent stores, outlets and kiosks, or micro-entrepreneurs making sales in the streets or house-to-house.
“We will provide them with access to digital tools, financial inclusion and services, and public-private models that support social entrepreneurship, to help them grow their business and their income,” the company maintains.
“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,” it details.
Elevating the standard of inclusivity
Unilever stresses that it is critical to create more opportunities for people from under-represented groups, both within and outside its organization.
The company says it has already achieved gender balance across its management globally, but there is “more work to do – for women, and for other people.”
In addition to its €2 billion (US$2.4 billion) spend on diverse suppliers, the company will support these businesses with a new Supplier Development Programme that will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities.
“We will increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera,” Unilever states.
“We will help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising and promote a more inclusive representation of people.”
Preparing young talent for the future of work
In addition to skills development, Unilever will pioneer new employment models and provide its people with flexible employment options, by 2030.
These include options such as flexible employment contracts with benefits such as pension plans, or offering time off work to study or re-train.
Unilever is collaborating with LevelUp – a youth employability platform – to assist young talent with discovering their interests, 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, share job opportunities and help young people to get into work,” the company states.
Gabriela Bucher, executive director at Oxfam International calls Unilever’s plan a “responsible action from the private sector” that fosters the “power to thrive, not just survive.”
“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.”
In other recent activities, Unilever has made moves toward a Climate Transition Plan, while teaming up with Future Food-Tech and Kellogg Company to spearhead an Innovation Challenge that will scale up global start-ups.
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