Raise living standards

Image of a women micro entrepreneur of HUL’s Project Shakti

Unilever is responsible for enabling millions of people to earn a living. Our endeavour is to ensure fairer wages, fairer access to opportunities, and a fairer world to raise the living standards across our value chain.

This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals:

UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 8 and 10

It is Unilever’s long-standing commitment to improve livelihoods, enhance access to training and skills, and raise living standards. Evolving business needs, as well as the growing ambitions of the increasingly connected youth, has brought our focus back on providing the right opportunities for talent across the country.

With an aim to create opportunities through inclusivity and prepare people for the future of work, Unilever has globally laid down a wide-ranging set of actions and commitments. We strive to train and raise people’s standards of living across the value chain, through the Raise living standards compass - an aspect of Unilever’s strategy to be a global leader in sustainable business.

Breaking the cycle of poverty, unlocking growth

A lot of people aren’t paid as much as the value that they create. And these wages not only affect them as individuals but also affect their families and communities.

In addition to providing for the family’s basic needs, a living income/wage acts as a cushion for unexpected events; catering to the basic needs as well as for healthcare and other amenities.

We're building on our commitment to pay a living wage in our own business and ensure that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever, earns at least a living wage or living income by 2030.

Implementing UN guiding principles on business and human rights

Setting the standards of inclusive behaviour at our workplaces is our Code of Business Principles (Code), which upholds the principle of equal human rights and is promoted in three ways:

  • By upholding values and standards across operations.
  • By supporting our relationships, while reinforcing the principles of Human Rights and Labour rights for all our suppliers.
  • By working through external initiatives.

All the sites in Hindustan Unilever are under Collective Bargaining Agreements and are aligned with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) principles. We have also implemented the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, throughout our operations. Our suppliers have adopted practices consistent with the Understanding the Responsible Sourcing Audit Guide for Suppliers (URSA), which is also available on our website.

Our Code not only ensures that we conduct our operations with honesty, integrity and openness but also supports our approach to governance and corporate responsibility.

100% procurement spend aligned with our Responsible Sourcing Policy

Image of a tomato farmer from India

Our suppliers are expected to uphold the standards set by our Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP) on human and labour rights. We continually strive to find solutions and extend our support to suppliers that have identified issues affecting the workers’ human and labour rights. On our part, we have set in place due diligence procedures to identify human rights and risks, not only in the supply chain but also in third-party audits.

Our RSP sets mandatory requirements on human and labour rights for suppliers in business relationships with HUL. Unilever remains committed to sourcing 100% of its procurement spend in line with the policy. We continue to engage with all our suppliers to progressively work towards achieving best-in-class practices.

Creating framework for fair compensation

Our framework for fair compensation, a core element of Unilever’s Compass strategy, ensures that compensation is fair and all our HUL factories and offices are covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). Our supply chain units have already been paying wages that are well above the statutory minimum wages, as prescribed by law.

At HUL, we believe that fair compensation also means taking into account the costs incurred by our employees outside the workplace. The Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) that is linked to the Cost Price Index (CPI), takes inflation into consideration and compensates for any increase in commodity prices and standard of living.

Additionally, we are committed to moving from ‘Fair Wage’ to ‘Living Wage’, aiding employees for their higher education, children’s education, and housing facilities. Our framework ensures that compensation not only adheres to the CBAs, but by continually reviewing the average pay between genders, it is also at par with the external industry benchmarks.

Helping SME retailers grow and reach consumers

Small and medium-sized enterprises account for two-thirds of all employment. Unilever has committed that by 2025, we will help five million SMEs grow their businesses. This is a goal that we aim to achieve by providing ease of access to finance, technology and skills. And by 2030, individuals that directly provide goods and services to Unilever will at least earn a living wage or income.

In India, for example, we have a joint initiative with the State Bank of India (SBI), to enable digital solutions for retailers and customers of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). Under this collaboration, the bank offers an instant paperless overdraft loan facility of up to Rs. 50,000 to retailers for their billings with distributors.

In addition, all distributors have an option to avail overdraft facilities from multiple banks for their share of HUL business. Moreover, to ensure that customers get the option of digital payments in smaller towns, the bank has piloted the installation of Point-of-Sale machines at multiple HUL touch points.

Enabling livelihoods in India

As one of the biggest FMCG companies in India, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) generates direct and indirect employment for hundreds of thousands of people across its value chain. HUL’s supplier and distribution network involves thousands of small farmers, distributors and retailers, many of whom are women. Through community initiatives, HUL is embedding sustainability across its business and using the power of its brands to contribute to a fairer, more socially inclusive world.

Working directly with sellers to build skills

We can help raise standards of living by recruiting and training sales agents from smaller towns and villages. While we improve our channels to reach our consumers, we simultaneously also provide them with sales and accounting training, marketing skills, as well as extended credit.

Our ‘Shakti Ammas’ are a classic example. Empowering women micro-entrepreneurs, we’ve helped nearly 1,36,000 Shakti entrepreneurs across 18 states to build a robust distribution network in India. This will not only help them generate income for themselves but also caters to the needs of their communities.

HUL expanded the scope of the project by partnering with an Indian adhesive company to sell their products through the Shakti network. This extension, in turn increased revenues for Shakti entrepreneurs. Shakti incentives are now being transferred through direct bank transfer helping rural women entrepreneurs enter the formal banking segment. Thereby bringing in the benefits of financial inclusion.

Adapting the Shakti model to explore new ideas, we have launched similar programmes across Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Columbia.

Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF)

HUL has generated over 30 million person-days of employment via the Hindustan Unilever Foundation through water conservation projects and judicious water use in agriculture. HUF’s NGO partners effectively leverage the government’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, enabling communities to earn wages as they build water conservation infrastructures. This helps achieve water security and economic well-being for the rural communities.

HUF also supports on-farm deployment of innovations to help farmers reduce their water usage in a cropping season, to make another cropping season viable for them. A combination of local cadres of frontline agronomists, large scale demonstrations of innovations and best farm practices, the use of mobile-enabled advisory solutions and appropriate inputs are transforming the ecology and economy of programme villages, for the better.

Project Prabhat

Project Prabhat is our sustainable community development initiative that is linked to the Unilever Compass. It builds on the local community needs at the grassroots level, in line with India’s development agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It aims to create sustainable communities in and around HUL sites through focused interventions on Economic Empowerment (skilling, entrepreneurship and value chain), Environmental Sustainability (water conservation, waste management and climate adaptation), Health (nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and WASH) and Education (basic infrastructure).

Under Project Prabhat we have collaborated with NGO partners and social enterprises to establish livelihood centres, providing the rural communities with a platform to enhance their employable skills and be equipped with a source of income generation.

The skill development trainings are conducted in beauty and hair care, tailoring, retail sales, electrical, e-commerce, data entry operator or tally, web and graphic designing, laptop and mobile repair, welding, plumbing, and more. Financial and digital literacy are also included from time to time in the training sessions to hone them holistically, making them future-ready. Other significant areas of non-farm-based livelihood training which not only provide salaried jobs but also enables beneficiaries to start their own ventures.

Furthering the entrepreneurship agenda under the farm-based livelihood interventions at Prabhat, specific agri-value chain interventions are being undertaken for dairy and horticultural produce. The aim is to reduce the input costs and increase the quality and quantity of outputs produced by promotion of good practices and technology-based producers’ engagement. Through Project Mooo, an app-based intervention for dairy farmers, technology is used to enhance the income of dairy farmers. The other value chains interventions where Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are being strengthened include maize, pulses, tomato, mahua, custard apple, goatery and poultry.

Kwality Wall’s

The brand’s mobile vending initiative ‘I Am Wall’s’ trains youth in sales, customer service and problem-solving, coupled with providing entrepreneurial exposure. This initiative has empowered over 14,000 people and 153 differently abled persons across the country.

Sustainable Farming

To support economic growth, HUL ensures that all its raw materials are sourced locally and sustainably. In 2020, 73% of our crops were sustainably sourced. Over 93% of the tomatoes used in Kissan Ketchup were locally and sustainably sourced from 10,000 farmers across India. More than 67% of tea in India procured for Unilever brands was also sourced from sustainable sources. Additionally, by the end of 2020, 100% of the chicory was sourced sustainably as all Unilever chicory farmers in India were covered under the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code providing farmers knowledge and expertise in sustainable agriculture practices.

The company is now working with farmers and suppliers to drive up social and environmental standards in the supply chain. Constant support on the implementation of the best farming principles and practices are also provided through the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code and equivalent standards like trustea and Rainforest Alliance.

With an aim to improve the livelihoods of the plantation workers in the tea industry, the alliance with trustea ensures that all legally mandated wages and benefits are paid. We have been working to move towards Living Wage and Living Income for all by 2030.

The impact of this can be witnessed at a large scale in the tea Bought Leaf Factories as well. Observing equality and fair treatment of all workers without any gender bias has contributed towards raising the quality of life for the women workforce (which accounts for about 60% of the workers in the tea industry). Thus, promoting a systematic grievance redressal mechanism and providing workers with the assurance of fair treatment.

Rin Shine Academy

The Rin Shine Academy aims to provide career readiness skills to the youth in India. It focuses on offering simple but valuable skills, which are English Speaking and Interview Training. In keeping up with the times, the delivery platform has changed from IVRS & Website to an Android Mobile App. So far, over 6,37,178 people have benefitted from this programme.

Glow & Lovely Careers

Over 10,00,000 users registered in HUL’s Glow & Lovely Careers Initiative have been benefited through career guidance, skill-based courses as well as job opportunities to empower themselves for a better future.

Plastic Waste Management

HUL’s plastic waste management programmes, through partners such as UNDP and Xynteo, aim to bring the unorganised sector of waste pickers into the mainstream by providing employment opportunities. So far, the lives of 800 Safai Sathis have been improved through these initiatives.

Rexona Confidence Academy

The academy has trained over 15 lakh young college-going girls on interview preparation; who are at the cusp of transitioning to the professional world.

Nine out of every ten households in India use HUL’s products and all efforts towards inclusivity leverage HUL’s extensive network and scale towards improving the living standards and bettering the lives of people. By encouraging and empowering the remotest of people from India’s heartlands, the objective is to enhance employment prospects with impactful actions. If enhancing skills and training can affect a level playing field for all, it will bring about equity in employability that will open up gates for the underrepresented communities and thereby further stretch our circumference of economic, sociological and psychological wellbeing.

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