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Enhancing livelihoods

In 2017, we made steady progress across the three pillars of our enhancing livelihoods goal – fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women and inclusive business.

Fairness in the workplace

Implement UN guiding principles on business and human rights

We implement the UN guiding principles on business and human rights throughout our operations and report on progress publicly.

Our Code of Business Principles upholds the principles of human rights and fair treatment. The Code describes the operational standards we follow and supports our approach to governance and corporate responsibility. It ensures that we conduct our operations with honesty, integrity and openness, and with respect for human rights and interests of employees.

We seek to uphold and promote human rights in three ways:

  • In our operations, by upholding values and standards
  • In relationships with suppliers, and
  • By working through external initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact

Unilever’s Understanding the Responsible Sourcing Audit (URSA) – Guide for suppliers reinforces the principles of human rights and labour rights for all our suppliers. In accordance with this guide, all suppliers are expected to adopt practices that are consistent with that of the Company.

The URSA is available on our website.

Our human rights practices assure respect for the right of employees to freedom of association and recognition of employees’ rights to collective bargaining, where permissible by law. All sites in HUL are under collective bargaining agreements. Our Code of Business Principles conforms to International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles.

Create framework for fair compensation

Compensation in India is based on guidelines issued by collective bargaining agreements (CBA). All factory sites and offices are covered under CBA. We ensure that our salaries adhere to the collective bargaining agreements, various mandatory statutory limits and are at par with various external industry benchmarks. All our supply chain units pay wages which are well above the statutory minimum wages as prescribed by the law.

As a part of the standard wage structure, employees get variable dearness allowance (VDA) which compensates for the increase in commodity prices and standard of living. VDA has been linked to the Cost Price Index (CPI) which keeps on changing every six months as notified by the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Governemnt of India. In addition to the fair wage, we also provide assistance to these employees for their higher education, children education and housing facilities. Our objective is to move from ‘Fair Wage’ to ‘Living Wage’ to ensure highest level of employee satisfaction and higher level of productivity.

Improve employee health, nutrition and well-being

Lamplighter is our framework for addressing employee health and well-being. Last year, we had partnered with experts in the field of mental health and counselling and set up toll-free helplines in nine languages for our employees to reach out and speak to a counsellor and seek advice on physical and mental health related matters. This year we expanded this facility to include face-to-face orientation sessions across 29 locations in India.

In 2017, we also made a big shift in the tracking mechanism of Lamplighter programme by shifting from manual to digital health tracking. We introduced a robust employee wellness solution tool to understand the health risks to employees. This new tool sends out targeted health and well-being content to employees, to better manage and track their specific health needs.

Additionally, ‘Thrive’ workshops based on the four-pillar model identified by Unilever - Physical, Mental, Emotional & Purposeful Well-being, were conducted across 32 locations in India and saw participation from over 12,000 employees. We also conducted regular workshops on improving nutrition where we invited experts to demonstrate ways of healthy cooking. Along with our partners and experts, we implemented habit changing interventions that focused on healthy nutrition choices, de-addiction and adopting clean habits.

Reduce workplace injuries and accidents

We have a vision to become an injury-free organisation which means zero fatalities, zero injuries, zero motor vehicle incidents, zero process incidents, and zero tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices. In 2017, our total recordable frequency rate (TRFR) reduced by 80% compared to 2008 baseline for accidents in the factories and offices. This was driven by the continuous focus on safety in our world class manufacturing programme. In 2017, our leaders championed the ongoing ‘Motor On, Mobile Off’ campaign throughout the business to ban the use of hand-held and hands-free mobile phones while driving.

Opportunities for women

Build a gender-balanced organisation with a focus on management


In the area of diversity, we ensure a gender-balanced workforce. More than one-third of HUL’s managers are women. In 2017, over 60% of the employees recruited were mid-career recruits and 45.5% of Unilever Future Leaders Programme recruits were women. HUL has been consistently recognised at various awards and forums such as ‘Best Companies for Women in India’ for its culture of diversity and inclusiveness. We also have the ‘Gender Balance Council’ which comprises of cross-functional managers nominated by the management committee and function heads. The council is instrumental in driving the diversity and inclusion agenda.

Some of our  initiatives to build a gender-balanced organisation:

  • Career by Choice programme
  • Career Break Policy
  • Maternity and Paternity Support Programmes
  • Workplace facilities
  • Women safety on shopfloor
  • Location flexibility
  • Agile Working
  • Gender Balance Network
  • Inclusive leadership

Promote safety for women in communities where we operate

We aim to improve safety for women and girls in our operations and the communities where we operate including in our extended supply chain. We do this through awareness, engagement and capacity building for women and men. Our focus is on increasing awareness on sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and strengthening grievance mechanisms.

Enhance access to training and skills

Fair & Lovely scholarship

The Fair & Lovely Foundation identifies academically exceptional girls from financially challenged backgrounds and offers scholarships to deserving candidates. To maintain integrity and fairness, the selection is done by a panel of eminent personalities from diverse fields. During the year, the Foundation awarded scholarships to over 55 deserving girl students.

Till date, over 1,400 girl students have been awarded scholarships.In 2016, we had launched an online education programme for women in partnership with edX.org, Harvard University, MIT, NIIT and English Edge. Till December 2017, 200,000 women have enrolled for this course and have taken the benefit of holistic learning that enables higher employability.

In 2017, we also introduced a job test preparation platform for exams like banking and government services entrance exams. This platform helped in reducing barriers to essential skills and training needed to secure jobs for women.

Expand opportunities in our value chain

Project Shakti

Project Shakti is our initiative to financially empower rural women and create livelihood opportunities for them. Project Shakti provides livelihood-enhancing opportunities to women micro-entrepreneurs, called Shakti Ammas or Shakti entrepreneurs (SEs), across India. The Shakti Ammas are given training for familiarisation with our products and basic tenets of distribution management.

We have a team of rural sales promoters (RSP’s) who coach and help Shakti Ammas in managing their business. This includes help in business basics and troubleshooting as well as coaching in softer skills such as negotiation and communication which enable them to run their business effectively. Project Shakti now has nearly 80,000 micro-entrepreneurs across 18 states.

Rin Career Ready Academy

Rin Career Ready Academy aims to inspire, educate and equip the youth from modest backgrounds with skills in English training delivered step-by-step through online or mobile phone. The academy offers a ‘Tele-Conferencing’ module where students can speak to a ‘real’ teacher instead of an automated voice. We also have a web course available on www.rin.in. So far, over 4,20,000 people have benefitted from this programme.

Inclusive business

Improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers

We have been associated with a number of smallholder farmers through our supplier partners, training them on good agricultural practices like drip irrigation, nutrient management, pest and disease management to improve their livelihood. A total of 10,000 smallholder gherkin farmers in southern India have benefitted from Unilever’s innovative Responsible Farming Programme. The aim is to increase productivity, develop best practices and improve livelihoods.

Smallholder farmers growing tomatoes for HUL have also benefitted from similar training initiatives. Till date, we have reached out to over 8,000 smallholder farmers who grew tomatoes on more than 11,000 acres of land.

Improve incomes of small-scale retailers

Our Kwality Wall's mobile vending initiative, ‘I am Wall’s’, has provided entrepreneurship opportunities to 10,500 people across India. This programme has helped vendors to become self-sufficient micro-entrepreneurs selling ice creams on the move helping us reach more consumers on the street. It equips people with skills such as sales, customer service and problem solving. It provides many young people with work experience as they step into the job market.

In most cases, each vendor can make INR 7,000-8,000 a month. Some of our vendors have now become distributors themselves, managing INR 2-10 crore in the ice cream business and earning upwards of INR 1,00,000 per month.

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