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Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace is about respecting the rights of all those who work with us.

Millions of people work in our operations and extended supply chain, helping us create the products used by billions more. For us, fairness in the workplace is about respecting, and advancing, their human rights - everywhere we operate, and in everything we do.

Our guiding principle is that business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, advanced and upheld. We believe respecting and promoting human rights forms the foundation for a healthy, sustainable and equitable business, and are essential for effective relationships with everyone we depend on. This is reflected throughout the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and in many areas of this Sustainable Living Report, including in Sustainable sourcing, Opportunities for women, and Inclusive business.

Through the work described in the Fairness in the Workplace section of this report, we aim to contribute to a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily: Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), and Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10). Underpinning the achievement of these goals is SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals. See our Human Rights Report (PDF | 10MB) for how our activities support other SDGs.

By working in collaboration with others and through a process of continuous improvement, we aim to achieve fairness in the workplace for all the people with whom we work.

Our strategy

We will drive fairness in the workplace by advancing human rights across our operations and in our extended supply chain.

Worker on production line

Why fairness in the workplace matters to us

We want to deliver positive social impact as well as business growth – it is fundamental to our purpose as a business. Fairness in the workplace is a vital element of maintaining people's trust in our business - and is directly linked to our licence to operate, and to the reputation of Unilever and our brands. It contributes to business continuity, helps us attract and retain the best talent, increases productivity, and builds long-term value to shareholders. We’ve set a number of targets to advance human rights and to enhance the health and safety of our employees.

Our approach to human rights

We aim to uphold and promote human rights in three main ways:

  • In our operations by upholding our values and standards.
  • In our relationships with our suppliers and other business partners.
  • By working through external initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact, the Consumer Goods Forum and the Institute of Human Rights and Business to name a few.

We focus on our ‘salient’ human rights issues - that is, those that are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through our activities or business relationships.

This approach is in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which we endorsed in 2011. We use the Guiding Principles to underpin our own high standards of corporate behaviour: they help us to identify and tackle systemic causes of abuse, and to work collaboratively and openly with others. We continue to align our policies with the Guiding Principles – for example, by strengthening our Code of Business Principles and our internal Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy.

Our policies and codes drive our internal and external compliance requirements along our whole value chain. Our Framework for Fair Compensation sets out the principles which we require all our businesses to comply with by 2020 - and includes the ambition that all employees should have guaranteed fixed earnings to be above a living wage by 2018. Read more about Fair Compensation.

Our approach to health & safety

Improving our employees’ health, safety and well-being is integral to fairness in the workplace. We instill safety in the behaviour of our people and the design of our sites and products, guided by a vision of Zero: Zero fatalities; Zero injuries; Zero motor vehicle incidents; Zero process incidents; and Zero tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices.

This sits alongside our aim to promote, maintain and enhance the health of our employees to maximise their fitness to work safely and effectively. We seek to make a positive impact on their health and well-being – to bring benefits for individuals and our business – through our health promotion and protection programmes. Our strategy for medical and occupational health focuses on promoting emotional, physical, mental and purposeful well-being for our employees and preventing occupational ill-health.

Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Progress to date

In our inaugural Human Rights Report (PDF | 5MB) in 2015, we explained how, and why, we identified our eight most salient human rights issues. With these in mind, we prioritised the need to address human rights impacts across our own and extended supply chain, with a focus on commodities and specific countries. We describe our progress in our second Human Rights Report (PDF | 10MB), published in December 2017.

Our Supply Chain’s Integrated Social Sustainability team (established in 2016) drives our human rights strategy and advocacy. Through a series of implementation activities in 2017††, we continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues as documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports.

We also updated our Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP) (PDF | 9MB), which sets out our commitment to do business with suppliers who are working to ensure transparency, remedy shortcomings and drive continuous improvement in the area of responsible sourcing. 55%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our RSP in 2017. In tandem, we updated and aligned our Responsible Business Partner Policy (PDF | 3MB) with the RSP. We also published our first Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (PDF | 3MB), and our second was published in spring 2018.

In April 2017, we created new guidance for mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures (the guidance provides a structure to help us integrated consideration for human rights into the following stages of the process: pre-transaction, during due diligence, contract negotiation and post-acquisition/joint venture governance).

We continued to make progress through our Framework for Fair Compensation (PDF | 449KB), which outlines how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation. We increased our ambition on one particular element of the Framework – the principle of a living wage – by advancing our target from 2020 to 2018. We are using the Fair Wage Network to refine our understanding of living wages,and compare our lowest level employees' compensation against relevant living wage thresholds.

Our Lamplighter employee health programme, Thrive well-being workshops and our newly developed Purpose workshops as well as our Vision Zero safety strategy meant that we continued to improve the health and safety of our workforce. Around 75,000 employees across 74 countries enrolled in Lamplighter and our accident rate improved to 0.89 accidents per million hours worked (measured as Total Recordable Frequency Rate).

Future challenges

Human rights, and our work to embed and promote respect for them, cannot be separated from the changing economic and political conditions in the markets where we operate. Rapidly changing political climates all over the world continue to generate new human rights issues or accentuate existing ones.

We are looking at the potential impact on human rights of developments in technology - sometimes called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The use of technology – and in particular digital – can bring further transparency and agility to identify the issues that workers are facing, so that we can focus on remediation, prevention and best practices. But we need to ensure that technological development doesn’t undermine the rights of workers.

At the same time, we need to carry on addressing the issues that are most salient to rights-holders, such as harassment and modern slavery.

Addressing salient human rights issues in our value chain helps us build a more resilient business. We’ll continue to make both the moral and the business case for this, while strengthening our internal capability, and the capability of our suppliers and other business partners to own and self-manage issues. We welcome and promote increasing requirements for transparency to create positive fundamental change.

Independently assured by PwC

†† The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC . See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 6MB) for the description of activities.

* In 2017 we amended the way we assess compliance with the RSP, hence prior years’ numbers are not comparable

Downloads

Unilever Human Rights Report 2017 (PDF | 10MB)


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Targets & performance

As part of the Fairness in the Workplace pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set ambitious targets on advancing human rights, fair compensation, improving employee health, nutrition and well-being, and reducing workplace injuries and accidents.

Fairness in the workplace
Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Our performance

Through a series of implementation activities in 2017††, we continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues which are documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports. To support this, we integrated our Human Rights function into our Supply Chain organisation. 55%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

We continued to make progress through our Framework for Fair Compensation (PDF | 449KB), which outlines how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation. We brought forward the living wage element of the Framework with the ambition that all our 161,000 employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to be above a living wage by 2018 rather than 2020.

74 countries ran our Lamplighter employee health programme and our safety performance (Total Recordable Frequency Rate) was 0.89 accidents per million hours worked, an improvement on 2016. We continued to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, focusing on training programmes on safety leadership and process safety.

Our perspective

We continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient issues (ie those at risk of the most severe negative impact through Unilever’s activities or business relationships) as described in our Human Rights Reports in 2015 and 2017. We continue to focus on the eradication of forced labour in global supply chains by supplier audits, awareness raising and training events, and have made progress on the removal of worker recruitment fees through the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment and the Consumer Goods Forum. We joined the Ethical Tea Partnership to drive improvements for tea workers and farmers and created Unilever Land Rights Principles and Implementation Guidance.

For suppliers, we continued to roll out the Responsible Sourcing Policy to a rapidly increasing number of suppliers, while continuously reviewing and improving the operation of our programme since its introduction in 2014. We are using the learnings to accelerate the inclusion of all our suppliers while improving the remediation of issues identified.

For our workforce, as well as rolling out our global Framework for Fair Compensation, we continued our Lamplighter employee health programme and our Thrive workshops designed to improve well-being. We also continued to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy (ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices) and our safety performance improved compared to 2016.

††The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 6MB) for the description of activities.

Independently assured by PwC

* In 2017 we amended the way we assess compliance with the RSP, hence prior years’ numbers are not comparable


  • Achieved 3

  • On-Plan 4

  • Off-Plan 0

  • %

    Of target achieved 0

Key to our performance
  • Achieved

    This is the number of targets we have achieved

  • On-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are on track to achieve

  • Off-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are currently not on track

  • %

    Of target achieved

    This is the percentage of the target we are on track to achieve

Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

We will implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout our operations and report on progress publicly.

Through a series of implementation activities in 2017††, we continued to embed human rights, focusing on our eight salient human rights issues as documented in our 2015 and 2017 Human Rights Reports.


Our Perspective

In publishing our Human Rights Progress Report 2017 we showed the progress made against our salient human rights issues since 2015, how we are tackling emerging issues and provided an update on how we see our approach developing in the future.

Re-positioning our Integrated Social Sustainability Team to cover strategic regions improved the implementation of our human rights strategy. A key focus of 2017 was our work to eradicate forced labour in global supply chains, including our internal webinar series, awareness raising articles, events and efforts to eliminate worker employment fees.

To continue to address land rights, we developed Unilever Land Rights Principles and Implementation Guidance, which we are rolling out for our own operations in 2018. An additional focus has been human rights considerations in mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures with the creation of internal guidance in April 2017.

†† The description of the implementation activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 6MB) for the description of activities.

Advancing human rights in our own operations

Source 100% of procurement spend in line with our Responsible Sourcing Policy

We will source 100% of our procurement spend through suppliers who commit to promote fundamental human rights as specified in our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

55%†* of procurement spend through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy in 2017.


Our Perspective

In 2017 we purchased over €34 billion of goods and services. The suppliers of these goods and services are central to driving efficiencies to enhance profitability and to helping us implement the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

In 2017 we initiated a review of our learnings from operating the Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP) since its introduction in 2014 – with the aim of improving our approach and increasing the number of suppliers committing to and then meeting its requirements.

Our review resulted in improved verification and remediation requirements and better anti-bribery and corruption compliance processes, as well as a more effective way of assessing compliance with the Policy. Using this revised compliance assessment, 55%†* of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the RSP’s mandatory requirements in 2017.

Independently assured by PwC

* In 2017 we amended the way we assess compliance with the RSP, hence prior years’ numbers are not comparable

Advancing human rights with suppliers & business partners

Create a framework for fair compensation

  • We will create a framework for fair compensation, starting with an analysis in 180 countries by 2015.

We will work with external organisations, including our social partners, referring to approaches such as living wage methodologies.

Through a series of activities††, in 2015 we created a Framework for Fair Compensation which we rolled out in 2016. We use the Fair Wage Network to provide a global database of relevant living wage benchmark data for each country in which we have operations. This enables us to compare non-management employees’ lowest fixed earnings levels against relevant living wage benchmarks.


Our Perspective

Our Framework for Fair Compensation provides a structured way for Unilever to outline how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation to our employees. We want all our businesses worldwide to comply with the principles of our Framework, including no discrimination in pay, by 2020. In 2017 we brought forward the living wage element of the Framework with the ambition that all our 161,000 employees should have sufficient guaranteed fixed earnings to be above a living wage by 2018 rather than 2020.

We use the Fair Wage Network to provide a global database of relevant living wage benchmark data for each country in which we have employees. This gives us an ongoing system and methodology to monitor our employees’ rewards against relevant living wage benchmarks, and supports compliance with the Framework by our businesses around the world. In the UK, we published our first Gender Pay Gap report.

†† The description of activities has been independently assured by PwC. See Unilever’s Basis of Preparation (PDF | 6MB) for the description of activities.

Fair compensation

Improve employee health, nutrition and well-being

Our Lamplighter employee programme aims to improve the nutrition, fitness and mental resilience of employees. By 2010 it had already been implemented in 30 countries, reaching 35,000 people.



  • In 2011 we aimed to extend the reach of Lamplighter to a further eight countries. We will implement Lamplighter in an additional 30 countries between 2012 and 2015. Our longer-term goal is to extend it to all the countries where we operate with over 100 people.

Our Lamplighter programme reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries by 2014, achieving our target a year early. In 2017 the programme reached 74 countries.


  • We will implement a mental well-being framework globally.

In 2015 we completed the two-year roll-out of our new module for mental well-being and established a global steering committee to monitor progress.


Our Perspective

Our Lamplighter employee health programme is key to addressing the top three health risks across our business: mental well-being; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury).

Lamplighter helps to safeguard employees’ health, improve productivity and reduce costs. It reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries in 2014, fulfilling our target to reach 68 countries a year early. In 2017, there were nearly 75,000 employees in 74 countries enrolled on the programme (this number fluctuates from year to year as we do not cover every employee on a yearly basis).

In 2015, we rolled out Unilever’s mental well-being module. This helps people manage pressure, offering practical advice on how to focus and practise mindfulness techniques, to feel more empowered and to work in an agile manner. Over 2015-2017, around 50,000 employees completed one of our Thrive workshops to help them put well-being into practice.

Improving employee health & well-being

Reduce workplace injuries and accidents

We aim for zero workplace injuries. By 2020 we will reduce the Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) for accidents in our factories and offices by 50% versus 2008.

Over 50% reduction in TRFR achieved by 2017, down to 0.89 from 2.10 accidents per 1 million hours worked in 2008.


Our Perspective

Our Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) improved to 0.89 accidents per 1 million hours worked (measured October 2016-September 2017), down from 1.01 in 2016. This was driven by the continuous focus on safety in high risk areas. We will consider our target fully achieved once we reach 2020; until then, our challenge is to keep our performance on track.

We continue to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices. In manufacturing, we focused on process safety through standards and enhanced individual qualifications as well as through our partner programme, Safety to Win. As a result of these initiatives, we achieved a 46% reduction in process safety incidents versus prior years. On our construction sites, we focused on a global Work at Heights training programme, while for travel we continued to promote safe driving.

Building a safer business
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