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Raise living standards

Strategy and goals

In a fair and inclusive society, we believe people should be paid at least a living wage or income – and entrepreneurs should get the support they need to build businesses that benefit them and their communities.

We want to help improve people's living standards

Of course that means ensuring that our own employees are paid a living wage. But it also means looking beyond our business, to the workers and small business owners who provide our goods and services and ensuring that they enjoy a decent standard of living and have the right support to grow their business – and ours.

A man in a hard hat and high visibility waistcoat studies a dashboard in a factory

Ensuring that people earn at least a living wage or income is a critical step towards building a more equitable world. It allows workers to participate fully in their communities, and helps them break the cycle of poverty. And when people earn a living wage, there’s a direct benefit to the economy, as it stimulates consumer spending, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover and improves job productivity and quality.

Raising living standards, sharing value fairly

Raising living standards plays a key role in our commitment to respect human rights. And while fair wages and compensation are embedded in our comprehensive framework of codes and policies, we want to go further by working with others to promote change and create living wage economies.

It’s part of the drive for equity and fair value that underpins the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind’. It’s a natural next step for a business like Unilever, which is committed to equity, everywhere we operate. And it makes commercial sense – because more prosperous, more resilient societies are better places for a business like ours to thrive.

We’ve set clear goals to drive equity

As part of our Unilever Compass, we've set ourselves clear goals that will help us help drive global equity through fair wages and raised living standards.

Improving living standards for low-paid workers

Farmers in Asia sort through their crop

We’ve met our commitment to pay all our employees a living wage. Now we want to extend this to all the workers who directly provide us with goods and services.

We’re taking a phased approach to implementing our living wage commitment, focusing on the most vulnerable workers in manufacturing and agriculture and mapping countries and commodities to understand gaps between minimum and living wages. We’re also revising our Responsible Sourcing Policy in 2022 to include a new requirement for suppliers to pay living wages, a requirement that we’ll introduce in stages across different portfolios.

Alongside this, we’re working with stakeholders to create systemic solutions to raise living standards through our purchasing practices, through collaboration with partners, and through advocacy wherever we operate. We know we need to take a systemic approach, as wages must be addressed alongside interlinked human rights issues such as working hours, health and safety and discrimination.

Supporting our retail partners to grow

A hand tapping a card on a payment terminal held by a shopkeeper

Our business relies on millions of small and medium-sized enterprises to bring our products to consumers. At the same time, this network of retailers is one of the most important ways we can achieve our ambitions for raising living standards and contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive society. By supporting them to grow, we are confident these SMEs will, in turn, offer more economic opportunities within their communities, for current and future employees, and contribute to local economic growth.

Helping businesses in our retail value chain harness the benefits of digitalisation is central to our Unilever Compass – where we’ve made a strategic choice to develop more e-business-to-business (e-B2B) platforms. Bringing retailers into the digital economy helps them grow their businesses through increased sales, become more resilient and earn a better income.

An illustration of a woman looking through a microscope

Sustainability Reporting Centre

Our key policies, sustainability data and details of our material issues can be found in our Sustainability Reporting Centre.

We’re helping more smaller stores gain access to digital commerce platforms so they can engage with Unilever and our distributors. We’re also building on our long-standing programmes to promote skills training and empower entrepreneurs, whether in small stores and kiosks, or among the sales agents who are crucial to our ‘last-mile distribution’ models, which bring our products to hard-to-reach consumers, often in areas where there is limited retail infrastructure.

Our network of partnerships is key to all this work, including with the CEO Partnership for Economic Inclusion, the Better Than Cash Alliance, Mastercard, AXA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Women’s World Banking and others.

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