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Unilever outlines major inclusivity program

Unilever has set out global commitments and actions it hopes will help drive a more equitable and inclusive society.

The company aims to achieve those goals by preparing people for the future of work, creating opportunities through inclusivity, and raising living standards across its value chain.

For the first goal, the company said it plans to pioneer new employment models and flexible employment options by 2030, such as job sharing or offering time off work to study or re-train. Unilever aims to equip 10 million young people with essential skills for job opportunities by partnering with top universities in Australia and youth employability platform LevelUp.

Last month, Unilever New Zealand began a four-day work week at full pay trial, becoming the first global company to do so in Aotearoa.

“This is about removing the barriers that limit value creation and slow us down and focusing our energies on creating impact and delivering results,” said Nicky Sparshott, CEO at Unilever ANZ.

To create opportunities through inclusivity, Unilever will spend AU$3.1 billion annually with diverse suppliers by 2025.

“While gender equality and LGBTQI+ have been focus areas for the last few years, we have also started focusing our resources on Indigenous communities and people with a disability,” Sparshott said. “Through the framework of a Reconciliation Action Plan, we look forward to identifying new ways to contribute to this space and formalising our commitment to the intergenerational upward mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Unilever has also created its first global employee resource group for people with a disability and their allies, called Enable@Unilever.

The company aims to ensure at least living wage or income for whoever provides goods and services to the company by 2030.

“The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality, and this past year has only widened this divide. Unilever ANZ’s strength as a business is critically linked to our ability to serve our communities. Without a healthy society, without a healthy environment, there cannot be a healthy business.”

Ahead of the curve

Lucy Ambler, consumer analyst at GlobalData, says Unilever’s move will put pressure on other major companies around the world to follow its lead, which is ahead of the curve in addressing CSR.

“Across the globe, widespread economic downturn and a significant employment slump is presenting key challenges for ‘luxury’ or ‘branded’ products, with 52 per cent of global consumers noting they are on a ‘tight budget’ when doing their weekly shop.

“Unilever holding itself accountable in this way, and pledging to tackle social inequalities within its business, will not only positively present its company values to the public – improving its competitive advantage – but will also mount pressure onto other FTSE 100 companies to follow in their footsteps,” said Ambler.

“A survey by GlobalData, found 76 per cent of global consumers now consider how ethical, environmentally friendly or socially responsible the products they buy are – so it is clear this shapes how consumers are consciously choosing what brands to support.

“Consumers’ evolving lifestyles are now being reactively shaped by way of gradual social, economic and demographic forces, so it is key for companies such as Unilever to position themselves at the forefront of this CSR movement in order to remain transparent and trustworthy.”

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