Earlier this year, we announced a set of ambitious commitments and actions to help build a more equitable and inclusive society. These include ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to us earns at least a living wage or income by 2030, and spending €2 billion annually with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups by 2025.

This week, we took an important next step towards those goals at a mid-year Unilever Partner with Purpose Connect event, attended by 1,000 of our key partners and stakeholders, from some 450 companies.

The event follows on from the launch of our Unilever Partner with Purpose (UPWP) programme in December last year, which set out to take purpose-led partnerships to a whole new level to fuel market-leading innovations, protect and regenerate nature, and make sustainable living commonplace.

During Tuesday’s event, we asked our partners to join us in our journey towards meeting our social commitments by making a ‘Partner Promise’ on two commitments on Living Wage & Living Income, and Supplier Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Along with our partners, including IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, we are aiming to break the cycle of poverty and strengthen the foundations of the global economy. Through our Living Wage & Living Income Promise, we are inviting them to demonstrate their shared values to scale up solutions for workers in global value chains, for example through initiatives such as the IDH Call to Action, with the ultimate goal of improving lives and livelihoods.

We have asked our supplier partners to address any living wage gaps in their own organisations as well as in their value chains, and to transparently report on progress.

We also asked them to commit to our Supplier Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Promise and commit to addressing social inequality in their businesses, by setting goals to achieve diversity and gender equity, and increasing diverse spend through inclusive policies and practices.

As Dave Ingram, our Chief Procurement Officer, says: “If all our partners commit to increase their spend with diverse suppliers, it will exponentially scale up and accelerate the transformation of our value chain. My big ambition is that our partners will consider the value of supplier diversity and engage and commit to it across their full network.

“We will be asking partners in the coming month to make a public commitment on these agendas, pledging their support to working alongside us to achieve our social goals.”

The power of purpose-led partnerships

The ambition at the heart of our Compass strategy is to be the global leader in sustainable business, showing that our purpose-led, future-fit business model delivers superior performance. But this is not something we can achieve by working alone.

Our partner ecosystem is 56,000 strong and we use these relationships across many areas of the business – including manufacturing, ingredients, packaging and business services – to drive innovation and improvements.

Thanks to our partners, even during the worst months of the pandemic, we were able to deliver fast innovations to market, manufacture entirely new categories of products and co-ordinate life-saving donations, training and on-the-ground support where it was needed most.

Likewise, our stretching targets linked to plastics, the climate crisis and respecting the human rights of those we work with have all benefited from the expertise and support of partners who share our values and purpose.

Celebrating progress

The world is changing and we need to change with it, in order to be able to continually respond to new and emerging consumer trends and deliver the sustainable, mutual growth we and our partners seek.

Yesterday’s event gave us an opportunity to celebrate the progress we’re making. For example, our partnership with LanzaTech allowed us to create the world-first laundry capsule – for our Omo brand – made using recycled carbon emissions. Alongside Wunderman Thompson, we launched Degree Inclusive, the world’s first adaptive deodorant for people with disabilities. And we’re currently working with Arzeda to harness the power of computer designed enzymes.

We are also about to enter into an exciting new partnership with Neste – a provider of renewable and circular solutions for the petrochemical industry – to help us innovate against climate change and reduce our dependency on virgin fossil feedstocks.

“It has been fantastic to witness the ingenuity and quality of innovation that’s been coming through as a result of the changes to the way that we’re partnering,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “With our Partner with Purpose programme, we firmly believe in the power of purpose-led partnerships that drive growth, while also doing good for people and the planet.”

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