Respect human rights

When it comes to doing business with us, human rights are a non-negotiable part.

Alt text: UN Sustainable Development Goals 3, 8 and 10

From providing fair wages to eliminating discrimination and harassment, be it building safe workplaces or reducing excessive working hours, we aim to build the right foundation of a socially inclusive world where everyone matters - right from the smallholder farmers who help us source our ingredients, to our distributors and everyone that we work with. And thus, when it comes to defining the core of our existence - within business and society, respect for human rights tops it all.

A shared vision of a fairer, more inclusive world

Raising living standards through incomes and wages, emphasising equity, diversity and inclusion, focusing on our supply and distribution chains to ensure fairer dissemination of the value that we create, every little step helps drive the changes towards creating a fairer society.

Respecting human rights and tackling abuse

Despite our efforts and our commitment to respecting human rights, abuse exists. And we aim to tackle these issues in three main ways:

Human rights across our own businesses

Our Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy sets the base for what our employees deserve and what we must do to uphold our culture. Our Code of Business Principles seeks to uphold and promote human rights in its operations, in relationships with business and partners, and by working through external initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact.

Unilever has identified eight human rights issues as a priority and is committed to addressing them across its operations globally. The eight priority issues are discrimination, fair wages, forced labour, freedom of association, harassment, health and safety, land rights and working hours. Unilever’s approach to managing these critical human rights issues globally is elaborated on the Unilever website. The report on human rights released by Unilever in 2015 outlines Unilever’s goals not only to respect human rights but to actively advance them across all areas of the business.

In India, HUL fully adheres to Unilever’s approach to human rights. In addition to this, our CoBP upholds the principles of human rights and fair treatment. The Code also conforms to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles. The principles of human rights are followed in the same spirit within and outside the organisation when engaging with business partners.

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy for suppliers reinforces the principles of human rights and labour rights for all our suppliers and is available on Unilever’s 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.

All workers are free to exercise their right to form and/or join trade unions or to refrain from doing so and to bargain collectively. For more information on this, please refer to our Annual Business Responsibility Report.

Embedding respect for human rights in relationships with business partners

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 that affect 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 for third-party audits.

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy comprises 12 fundamental principles

Unilever’s Responsible Sourcing Policy comprises 12 fundamental principles

Creating a framework for earning a living wage

Our commitment to ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever will earn at least a living wage or income by 2030, is a core element of the Unilever Compass Strategy.

This 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.

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.

A strong policy framework and our human rights governance

A strong policy framework and Unilever’s  human rights governance

We have zero-tolerance towards intimidation, discrimination, harassment, threats, or physical/legal attacks against the defenders of human rights in relation to our operations.

Led from the top, overseen by our CEO and supported by our Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), our human rights governance provides consultation and strategic direction when the severity of an impact is high (potential or actual), where a business-critical decision needs to be undertaken, or where addressing an impact may require a substantial financial investment. Addressing the salient human rights issues in our value chain also helps us build a more resilient business.

The use of advanced digital technology can bring help to bring agility and transparency to identify the issues faced by our workers. We can therefore focus on remediation, implementing best practices and aiming towards implementing preventive measures without undermining the rights of our workers.

Protecting health and safety

Building a safer business to reduce workplace injuries and accidents requires a substantial commitment to safety at work. Our vision is to become an injury-free organisation i.e. zero: fatalities, injuries, motor vehicle incidents, process incidents and zero-tolerance for unsafe workplace behaviour and practices. As compared to the 2008 baseline for accidents, our Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) has reduced by 87% in 2019 across all factories and offices.

Focusing on efficiency for a bigger impact

Over the years, we have also expanded how we can monitor and verify human rights issues beyond the use of our own audit standard, the Understanding Responsible Sourcing Audit (URSA).

Furthermore, these approaches have helped in expanding the ways that we can monitor as well as verify human rights issues beyond our audits without compromising our standards:

  • Acting on breaches with immediacy
  • Raising grievances in our extended supply chain
  • Keeping our suppliers informed and engaged
  • Thinking bigger, taking collective action

Improving employee health, nutrition and wellbeing

Our core responsibility is not just to help enhance our employee’s physical and mental health but also to encourage people everywhere to look after their health holistically.

We have a five-pronged approach to wellbeing, targeting different sets of audience. The theme ‘Wellbeing for All’ is based on the approach that wellbeing means different things to different people.

Hence, our framework offers customised solutions to five diverse sets of target audiences:

  • Line Leaders
  • Teams
  • Line Managers
  • Individuals
  • Impacted Individuals

This segmented approach has helped create a bouquet of solutions in a varying yet apt degree of intensity and frequency. We truly believe in the spirit of touching the lives of everyone and hence all our wellbeing interventions are available to not only our employees but their family members as well.

We have built in a systemic approach to wellbeing embedding robust interventions with a customised approach. Last year, we designed ‘Know your Wellbeing Quotient’, enabling more than 2,200 employees to craft personalised wellbeing plans, offering curated solutions aligned to its wellbeing framework by investing over 13,000 hours in 2020. As a result of the sustained efforts, we saw the reflections in an internal employees’ survey UniVoice – 92% score on Unilever cares for wellbeing and 900 bps improvement on wellbeing scores, over the last two years.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sustained need for supporting employee wellbeing has been reinforced. Leaders are encouraging employees to take time off throughout the year to invest in their well-being. Additionally, HUL has built an Employee Assistance Programme that provides mental health counselling for employees and their families in 11 languages. In the bid to create psychological safety for all, we have also created a network of employees who are trained on mental health to support their peers and have trained over 600 Mental Health Champions already.

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