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Business Integrity

Purpose, Values and Principles

The HUL growth story is intertwined with the India story and our philosophy is ‘what is good for India is good for Hindustan Unilever’. Our business has always been driven by a sense of purpose and the belief that business must have purpose beyond profit. We continue to believe that business must make a positive contribution to addressing the challenges the world faces and that this is the only way a business will succeed. Our history is a story of growth powered by ideas and values. Products, brands and profits followed in their wake; and while we will change to meet the challenges of our times, our values will not. The focus of HUL is very much on growth in line with our values, not on growth at any cost.

HUL’s brands and reputation are valuable assets and the way in which we operate, contribute to society and engage with the world around us is always under scrutiny.

Conducting our operations with integrity and respect for the many people, organisations and environments our business touches, has always been at the heart of our corporate responsibility.

Everyone at Unilever is expected to be an ambassador for our high ethical standards – what we call ‘business integrity’. Each of us at HUL has a key role to play to embed a strong culture of business integrity across all our operations. Our principles and values apply to all our employees through our Code and Code Policies.

Business Integrity Framework

Business Integrity is all about how we work. Our Business Integrity framework ensures that how we do business is fully aligned with our values and applicable laws and regulations in countries where we operate. It has three pillars:

  • Prevention – we seek to embed a culture of integrity at all levels, in all geographies
  • Detection – we encourage employees to speak up and give voice to their values
  • Response – we have the tools to investigate and if necessary, sanction confirmed breaches, and use what we learn to continually improve.

Code of Business Principles and Code Policies

Our Corporate Purpose sets out our aspirations in running our business. It is underpinned by our Code of Business Principles. Our Code of Business Principles (PDF 218.11 KB) is a clear ethical compass, which says what is right and what is wrong and also supports our approach to governance and corporate responsibility.

We have strong values and clear policies and standards to ensure our employees not only do things right but also do the right thing.

In addition to our Code of Business Principles, it includes clear policies, guidelines and related learning materials, as well as robust procedures and controls to help us prevent, detect and respond to any inappropriate behaviour.

The Code and Code Policies provide a framework of simple ‘Musts’ and ‘Must Nots’ designed to be readily applied by employees in their day-to-day work. They are mandatory for all employees and others working for HUL.

The Code and Code Policies are standard Policies applicable to all Unilever entities and can be accessed using the link provided under each of the pillars below.

Living the Code

Behaving with integrity and acting in an ethical manner, consistent with the expectations of customers, consumers and other stakeholders, is essential for the protection of the reputation of HUL and its brands.

Partnering responsibly

We are committed to establishing mutually beneficial relations with our suppliers, customers and business partners. We want to work with third parties who have values similar to our own and work to the same standards. As a purpose-led company, we are committed to doing business in a manner that improves the lives of workers across our value chain, their communities and the environment.

Our Responsible Sourcing & Business Partnering Policy (PDF 95.91 KB) helps to give us visibility of our third parties to ensure their business principles are consistent with our own.

Countering corruption

cartoon image of a man standing in a field holding a vegetable

One of our fundamental values is Integrity and we aim to have a positive influence across the value chain, raising the bar on Anti Bribery and Corruption. Our Code and Code Policies reflect our desire to fight corruption in all its forms. We are committed to eradicate any practices or behaviours that are not in line with our Code and Code Policies through our zero-tolerance approach to such practices.

Respecting People

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Having a strong set of values that respect people, society, and the planet has always been at the heart of HUL and will continue to be critical to building our purpose-led, future-fit company. We conduct our operations with honesty, integrity and openness, and with respect for the human rights and interests of our employees. We have introduced a paternity leave policy, included same sex partners in our medical policy & are trying to create a workforce that is truly diverse.

We believe in a workplace where there is mutual trust, respect for human rights and no discrimination. As an employer, we have taken several steps to make the workplace more inclusive. We have created accessible workspaces for Persons with Disabilities. We shall similarly respect the legitimate interests of those with whom we have relationships.

We are committed to creating a safe and respectful workplace for all our employees. It is our collective responsibility to cultivate a culture of mutual respect, dignity, and equity. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards any behaviour which could be construed as discrimination, victimisation or harassment​, including sexual harassment. Our Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Policy is gender neutral and extends to persons belonging to LGBTQ+ community. We conduct regular trainings for all our employees on gender sensitisation and sexual harassment.

We have 8 internal committees responsible for dealing with sexual harassment complaints. Details of these committees are made available in each location. All issues of sexual harassment are treated with confidentiality, and we ensure no retaliation.

Safeguarding information

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Information is essential to our success: it fuels our research, keeps us in touch with consumer needs and helps us work effectively together. If used inappropriately, information can cause considerable damage to our business.

Engaging externally

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Throughout our value chain, from innovation through to our consumers, Unilever and its employees need to demonstrate the same ethical standards when engaging with others externally as when dealing with colleagues.

Related link

Political Contributions

At HUL, we do not support or fund political parties, candidates or any groups that promote party interests. Our Code Policy categorically includes our stand on political contributions which can be accessed at Political Activities & Political Donations (PDF 105.28 KB).

How is business integrity governed and managed

Our CEO sets an unequivocal tone from the top: he communicates regularly with leaders and all employees on business integrity, making clear that adherence to our Code and Code Policies is non-negotiable. Many other members of our Executive are also vocal champions: they make time to regularly share their personal perspective on business integrity with their teams, through communications and ‘integrity moments’ at the start of meetings to briefly focus on a specific topic or learning where appropriate.

At Board level, our Audit Committee is updated on relevant compliance developments.

How do employees raise concern

We are committed to a culture of transparency and have a 100% prohibition on retaliation against those who report or seek guidance on ethical or compliance issues and/or report cases under our Code of Business Principles. See our Non-Retaliation Policy (PDF 568.39 KB) for further details.

We want employees to feel confident about speaking up and third parties are likewise encouraged to contact us with any concerns. We offer a variety of internal and external reporting solutions for raising concerns in confidence, anonymously if required.

Employees can get in touch with their line manager, a Business Integrity Officer or a member of their Business Integrity Committee. Alternatively, they can use our confidential external Unilever Code Support Line (whistleblowing line) via telephone or online.

In addition to the internal and external channels provided, where available, employees are able to utilise other external reporting channels and report directly to the authorities.

We highlight these options during Business Integrity training and in our communications. Case closure statistics are reviewed by the Audit Committee on a quarterly basis at each of its meetings.

Responding to breaches of our Code

Our market-based Business Integrity Committees oversee investigations of all potential breaches of our Code and Code Policies, except where senior executives are involved. In such cases, our Chief Legal Officer and Chief Business Integrity Officer oversee investigations and a global code policy committee determines any sanctions regardless of where such executives are located.

Each Business Integrity Committee is responsible for ensuring the timely investigation of all alleged or suspected Code breaches by an individual employee – with a view to reaching a final determination within 60 days.

Our reporting platform allows two-way communication through a secure exchange between the reporter and the Business Integrity Officer even when the reporter chooses full anonymity. On receipt of a report, we formally acknowledge and encourage engagement to facilitate the investigation and, where appropriate and possible, we aim to provide transparency with regards to the investigation progression and anticipated completion. See Our Speak up Platforms and Investigating Code Breaches (PDF 494.51 KB) for detail of the process.

For cases of breach we issue written warning, appropriate financial consequence as legally possible (e.g. downgrade in performance signal for the year, bonus reduction, salary freeze for subsequent year, re-assignment of role, demotion, suspension with proportional reduction in salary)

Our policy is to investigate all reported concerns, however they are raised, including minor ones. The number of confirmed Code Policy breaches reflects the high overall standards we set ourselves. We sanction individuals as appropriate, including through warnings and coaching, and share learnings that help reduce the likelihood of material breaches occurring.

How we assess business integrity and conduct due diligence?

We use a risk-based approach to implement our Business Integrity programme. We constantly seek to improve our analytics capabilities, so trends, hotspots and root causes are rapidly identified and addressed.

Each operating company periodically reviews its Business Integrity programme and profile to identify focus areas for improvement. Development needs identified through this assessment are addressed as part of local, or where appropriate, global plans. The work of local teams is available for independent review by our Corporate Audit function.

We have additional detailed controls for preventing financial accounting errors and fraud. Our financial controls are externally audited annually. Our Corporate Audit function includes the audit of Business Integrity controls in their scope of business unit audit work.

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