Unilever pledges living wage across supply chain

Unilever commits to extending the living wage throughout its supply chain and to piloting new ways of working that offer flexibility and security.



Unilever has committed to ensuring every firm in its global direct supply chain will pay their employees at least a local living wage or income by 2030.The company already pays its own employees at least a living wage and says it will work with our suppliers, other businesses, governments and NGOs – through purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy – to create systemic change and global adoption of living wage practices.The company says it will also help 5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in its retail value chain grow their business through access to digital tools, financial inclusion and services, and public–private models that support social entrepreneurship.

Unilever also announced a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy, aimed at removing barriers and bias in recruitment and driving diversity and inclusion. This includes spending €2 billion annually with diverse suppliers, by 2025. These suppliers will be small and medium-sized businesses owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and LGBTQI+. Through a new Supplier Development Programme they will have access to skills, financing and networking opportunities. Unilever says it will encourage its suppliers to have diversity amongst their respective partners.

The company also says it will increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera.

Finally, Unilever pledged to pioneer new employment models and provide its employees with flexible employment options by 2030 that offer both security and flexibility. These include options such as flexible employment contracts with benefits such as pension plans, or offering time off work to study or re-train. It is also growing its apprenticeship programme globally and working with partners on LevelUp – a youth employability platform – to provide a one-stop shop for young people to discover their purpose, get access to training, volunteering and work experiences.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said: “The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality. The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent, and offers opportunities for everyone.

“We believe the actions we are committing to will make Unilever a better, stronger business; ready for the huge societal changes we are experiencing today – changes that will only accelerate. Without a healthy society, there cannot be a healthy business.”

Meanwhile, broadcaster Sky has pledged that one in five of its staff will be from a minority ethnic background by 2025 and will guarantee that at least 5% of employees in its 25,000-strong UK and Ireland workforce are black. The move to increase the proportion of minority employees comes after a study found Sky’s workforce was not representative of the areas where it operates.And Aviva announced that it is giving all its 16,000 UK employees an extra wellbeing day off a year which they can use as they wish.

Optimism gap

The announcements came as a survey by Morgan McKinley suggested employers are much more optimistic about salary and hiring prospects in 2021 than their employees and another by New Street Consulting Group, which promotes agile working solutions, found the number of jobs advertised as a home working role more than trebled in 12 months, according to analysis of figures from labour market analytics firm Emsi.

The survey of 1,087 workers and employers to launch Morgan McKinley’s new salary calculator, comes as the Chancellor is reported to be considering extending the furlough scheme and the Northern Ireland Executive annnounced a four-week extension of the coronavirus restrictions until 5th March. The survey found over half (53%) of employers expect their organisation’s activity levels to increase over the next 12 months, whilst only one in four professionals believe that hiring will return to pre-Covid-19 levels in the same period.

Almost half of employers (49%) feel confident that they will be in a position to offer pay rises in 2021, whilst only 22% of employees are optimistic about being offered an increased salary.

David Leithead, Chief Operations Officer of Morgan McKinley UK said: “Those companies who think they won’t be hiring in 2021 could have a tougher year ahead of them than even they expect, because their number one priority right now should be looking at their talent. Competition for talent, and the wage inflation that goes with it, will be as hot as ever – maybe even hotter – as we come out of COVID-19. This means those companies trying to focus only on retention will face a battle with the companies who are going into the hiring market with a positive story .”

The survey also showed that 68% of employees said they plan to upskill in their area of expertise and over 50% of employers want to hire for specific skill sets to react to market changes and adapt to the changing environment.

Leithead added: “Any organisation or any good leader must have talent acquisition and talent management at the top of their strategic priority list, whether that’s hiring new skill sets externally or retaining existing team members by offering professional development opportunities. Leaders should not rest on their laurels when it comes to their talent. We know that talented people will always be in demand; regardless of whether a company is trying to recover from a crisis or maximise their performance. ”

The survey comes amid announcements by several firms around progressive new policies. Unilever, for instance, has pledged that every worker in its global supply chain will earn the living wage by 2030. It says it will require direct suppliers to pay staff a local living wage that allows “workers to participate fully in their communities and help break the cycle of poverty”. All of Unilever’s direct 155,000 employees are paid a living wage, but the company said it wanted to “secure the same for more people beyond our workforce”.


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