Values & standards

We aim to be a trusted corporate citizen wherever we operate in the world, respected for the values and standards by which we behave.  

Our shared values

We have a set of shared values. Our values guide the way in which we do business and influence the way we think and act. It is by putting these shared values into everyday working practice that we can operate successfully as a company.

Our values are expressed in our Corporate Purpose. Our Code of Business Principles guides how we live them out on a day-to-day basis. Unilever’s Supplier Code sets out what we expect from our suppliers. Our Sustainable Agriculture Code sets out what we expect from our suppliers of agricultural raw materials.

Corporate purpose

We first articulated our Corporate Purpose in 1996. Articulating our Corporate Purpose did not invent something new but made clear what we believe is the essence of our company. It describes what Unilever aspires to be as well as expressing our values and beliefs. Our Corporate Purpose describes the factors that we believe will contribute to our long-term success. They also underpin our commitment to meet these needs in a sustainable way.

Code of Business Principles

Our Code of Business Principles sets the framework of standards within which we work. The Code is supported by additional operational standards on issues such as employee and product safety.

We regularly review the Code to ensure it meets the needs of today's business environment. Our latest revision was in 2001 and the updated Code was rolled out across our business in 2002. The Code is a short document, written in clear, simple language, stating overall principles. It is designed to be easy to read and understand for all our employees. This is because we believe the Code must have practical value in our day-to-day business. We expect every Unilever employee to follow its principles in spirit as well as to the letter.

Monitoring our code

A code is of no practical use unless it is part of an active process of compliance, monitoring and reporting. The Board of Unilever is responsible for this process, with day-to-day responsibility lying with the senior management in our regions, categories, functions and operating companies. A network of Code Officers and Committees supports the responsible operational leaders. The Code is translated into nearly 50 languages.

Senior management provide an annual Code and Code Policy Declaration that is monitored by our Chief Legal Officer and our Regional Presidents.  Specialist compliance programmes supplement the Code, for example in the areas of product safety and quality or pensions management. Our corporate audit function is used to provide reassurance that our processes work satisfactorily.

We reviewed all our corporate policies in 2010 as part of our ongoing work to simplify business processes across the company. The previous 86 policies have been replaced by a more concise framework of 24 policies that complement and support the Code of Business Principles.

These policies cover all aspects of the behaviours expected of our employees to ensure that they conduct business in a manner that is consistent with the expectations of our consumers, our shareholders, the societies we serve and the regulations and laws that apply to us. The new Code policies have been communicated to all our managers to provide a better understanding of Unilever’s standards and greater clarity as to where they will be held accountable.

Any breaches of the Code must be reported in accordance with procedures set by the Chief Legal Officer of Unilever. Our Board will not criticise management for any loss of business resulting from adherence to our Code. We expect and encourage employees to bring to our attention any breach of the Code and no employee will suffer as a consequence of reporting a breach. Since 2004, all employees worldwide have had access to a toll-free 24-hour ethics telephone hotline. The hotline enables employees to raise any concerns in complete confidence, and anonymously if they wish.

Our values & our business partners

We rely on a huge network of business partners around the world. We seek to establish mutually beneficial relationships with them and expect our suppliers to work in a way that is consistent with our own values and principles. Unilever’s Supplier Code draws on our Code of Business Principles to set out 11 clear standards we expect our suppliers to meet. Like our Code of Business Principles, Unilever’s Supplier Code is accompanied by a positive assurance process. Our Sustainable Agriculture Code, published in April 2010, defines the standards we seek from our suppliers of agricultural raw materials.