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Enhancing livelihoods

In 2016, 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.

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. In 2016, we 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.

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 2016, our total recordable frequency rate (TRFR) reduced by 75% 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 and the ‘BeSafE’ campaign in our non-manufacturing sites.

Opportunities for women

Build a gender-balanced organisation with a focus on management

HUL was recognised as one of the ‘Top 10 Best Companies for Women in India’ by The Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) Study 2016, instituted by Working Mother in partnership with the AVTAR Group.

We undertake many initiatives to build gender-balanced organisation. Some of these are:

  • 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 200 deserving girl students.

Till date, over 1,400 girl students have been awarded scholarships. In 2016, Fair & Lovely Foundation has partnered with, a non-profit open online course platform founded by Harvard University and MIT, to launch a mobile education programme for women. This partnership will enable us, via Fair & Lovely Foundation, to leverage edX’s online courses to provide a holistic, career guidance-driven learning to enable higher employability for young women. The Foundation also has partnerships with NIIT and English Edge.

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, 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.

In 2010, we extended Project Shakti to include ‘Shaktimaans’. Shaktimaans are typically the husbands or other male family members of Shakti Ammas. They sell products on bicycle in surrounding villages, covering a larger area than Shakti Ammas can cover on foot. Today, Project Shakti has over 72,000 micro-entrepreneurs supported by 48,000 Shaktimaans.

Rin Career Ready Academy

Rin Career Ready Academy aims to inspire, educate and equip the youth from modest backgrounds with skills in English training, office dressing and interviewing. In 2016, we re-launched the academy with two key new initiatives: Introduction of the ‘Tele-Conferencing’ module where students can speak to a teacher instead of an automated voice and second is a web course available on So far, over three and half lakh people have been reached through this programme. In 2016 alone, nearly two lakh people benefited 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. In 2016 alone, we reached out to 5,000 smallholder farmers who grew tomatoes on 7,000 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 9,000 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, earning upwards of INR 1,00,000 per month.

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