Our governance

We aim to have strong governance structures in place to manage our social and environmental responsibilities carefully and thoughtfully.

Management structures

Our commitment to sustainable development is embedded into our business agenda through our new mission and our Sustainable Living Plan. Management structures to help us fulfil our commitment are integrated into our organisational framework:

  • Sustainability and corporate responsibility are championed and led by a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive: Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer. The Unilever Leadership Executive is responsible for the operational leadership of the business.

  • Strategic development of our social and environmental goals is the responsibility of our four product categories and their global brand teams. These categories are: Foods, Personal Care, Refreshment and Home Care.

  • Implementation is rooted in our operating companies within our three regions: The Americas; Western Europe; and Asia, Africa and Central & Eastern Europe.

  • Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team supports the Unilever Leadership Executive. A wide range of functions is represented on the Steering Team including the leaders of our categories, R&D, procurement, marketing and customer development. This team of senior leaders meets quarterly and is chaired by Unilever Leadership Executive member, Keith Weed.

  • Governance of our conduct as a responsible corporate citizen is provided by our Board's Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Committee.

  • Both our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team and Board Committee benefit from the insights of the Unilever Sustainable Development Group (USDG) – a group of external specialists in corporate responsibility and sustainability who guide and critique the development of our strategy.

This governance structure is supported by a small team at our corporate headquarters in London, led by our Senior Vice-President for Sustainability, who sits on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team and who supports our Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Committee and the Unilever Sustainable Development Group.

Specialist teams within Unilever support our work on sustainability such as our Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre and the Sustainable Agriculture Steering Group. These teams also obtain external input, for example through the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board.

Independent oversight: Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Committee

We have a Board committee of Non-Executive Directors – the Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Committee – which is charged with ensuring that we conduct our business responsibly and that Unilever's reputation is protected and enhanced. It ensures that our Code of Business Principles remains fit for purpose and that associated Code policies are properly applied.

The Committee, which meets quarterly, comprises three independent Non-Executive Directors:

  • Malcolm Rifkind (Chair)

  • Hixonia Nyasulu

  • Louise Fresco

To ensure alignment of all these groups, Keith Weed, a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive, attends the Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Committee meetings, and chairs the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team and the Unilever Sustainable Development Group.

Independent oversight: Audit Committee

One of the roles of the Board's Audit Committee is to review Unilever's overall approach to risk management and control, and its processes, outcomes and disclosure. The Committee considers the application of the Code of Business Principles as part of its remit to review risk management.

Governance of our codes: Global Code & Policy Committee

The Corporate Code Committee, chaired by our Chief Legal Officer and Group Secretary, oversees the implementation of the Code of Business Principles on behalf of the Unilever Leadership Executive.

Executive management

The Unilever Leadership Executive, led by our Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for managing profit and loss and delivering growth. It is supported in matters of sustainability by the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team whose members are accountable for ensuring the goals are achieved by their target dates.

External insights: Unilever Sustainable Development Group

Our strategy benefits from the insights of the Unilever Sustainable Development Group (USDG) – a group of internationally respected external specialists in corporate responsibility and sustainability. They form a panel of independent – and independently minded – experts who guide and critique the development of our strategy.

They are:

  • Ma Jun – Water specialist and Founder Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPEA), China
  • Helio Mattar - Co-Founder and President of the Akatu Institute, Brazil 
  • Malini Mehra – Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Markets, India
  • Jonathon Porritt – Founder Director of Forum for the Future, UK
  • Tiahoga Ruge – Director General of the Mexican government's Centre for Education and Training for Sustainable Development. 

Specialist input: Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC)

SEAC's role is to provide independent scientific evidence and guidance so that Unilever can identify and manage:

  • risks for consumers, workers and the environment with regard to the safety of products and supply chain technology

  • environmental impacts, with regard to the sustainability of Unilever's brands, products and supply chain.

SEAC have used their long-standing expertise in lifecycle assessment to help develop the environmental metrics and the approach to measuring our baseline in greenhouse gases, water and waste for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Specialist input: Sustainable Agriculture Steering Group

The Sustainable Agriculture Steering Group comprises Unilever staff from around the world responsible for managing our Sustainable Agriculture Initiative. Its objective is to promote sustainable supply chains, focusing on long-term, sustainable access to Unilever's key crops. Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex in the UK acts as principal adviser to the Group.

The Steering Group benefits from the input of the Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Board, which consists of external experts from not-for-profit organisations and research institutes in the voluntary sector and academia. Its role is to provide independent advice and judgement and to strengthen policy-making within Unilever.

Other programmes

Our Environmental Impact team, Sustainability Champions' Network and Sustainable Packaging Steering team are three current examples of how teams come together to work on specific issues. These groups work to assess Unilever's footprint, formulate strategy, agree policy, work with category and brand teams to set specific goals and support the teams in implementing them. They also seek advice from external experts.