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Equity, diversity and inclusion Strategy and goals

Social justice and fairness have not been achieved anywhere in the world. Until they are, we need to be at the centre of the global drive to build equity – and to creating a fairer, more socially inclusive world.

This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Gender equality
  • Reduced inequalities

Average read time: 9 minutes

Reaching the excluded and lifting barriers

We want everyone who works for Unilever to be treated fairly and to have fair access to opportunities.

Unilever’s headquarters building in the UK with an illuminated rainbow to mark Gay Pride

Diversity and inclusion have been core elements of our business strategy for many years. We want to take that momentum and go further – in the pursuit of equity. For us, equity means fair treatment, and fair access to opportunities, information and resources for all, so that everyone can thrive in truly inclusive societies.

The drive for equity is a core element of the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind’ and supports a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And it’s the link that joins the fundamental principles of our business: a commitment to justice and human rights everywhere we operate, and a determination to apply a gender perspective to everything we do.

We’re developing new approaches to make sure everyone across our business supports this central element of our Compass strategy.

We’re determined to achieve a culture where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, celebrating their uniqueness.

Evelyn Espinal, our Global Vice President, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Driving equity in every part of our business

We want to build a truly inclusive business, one that lifts barriers and helps excluded and underserved populations access their fair share of opportunity. That means looking at our own workplaces, our supply and distribution chains, and the impact we have through our advertising and by working with partners – and making sure they all contribute to a fairer world.

We’re committed to respect for human rights and raising living standards, and we’re open to all with a framework of codes and policies that set out our zero tolerance of discrimination and commitment to equal opportunity.

But our ambition to create equity goes beyond that framework. It’s a holistic approach that focuses on how we can use the scale and reach of our business to have the greatest impact: driving equity through our workplaces, equity through our brands, equity in our supply chain, and equity in our communities.

Our strategic priorities

To accelerate our drive for equity, we've identified four strategic priorities:

  • gender
  • race and ethnicity
  • people with disabilities
  • LGBTQI+.

Our goals to drive equity, diversity and inclusion

Equity should drive everything we do, everywhere. But we're also setting ourselves clear objectives that will help us tackle inequality and drive inclusion.

Creating an equitable and inclusive culture

Achieve an equitable and inclusive culture by eliminating any bias and discrimination in our practices and policies.

We’ve made significant progress over many years through our commitments to empowering women, to achieving gender balance, and to fair workplace practices that aim to tackle discrimination and bias.

But we need to go further. We will become a beacon of diversity and inclusion by looking at every aspect of what we do and ensuring it’s fair and inclusive to everyone, particularly under-represented groups. We’re seeking equity in:

  • our policies and practices, by removing barriers and bias from all existing policies and practices which impact employees' experience
  • our employee experience, by establishing leadership accountability for equipping and supporting our employees to excel in their roles and contribute to the growth of the business
  • our talent attraction, recruitment and selection, development and career progression by removing barriers and exclusionary practices in all markets
  • in representation and retention, by seeking to make our workforce fundamentally representative of the populations in the geography in which they operate, and of their customer base.

How we're becoming a beacon of diversity and inclusion.

Increasing diversity across our business

Accelerate diverse representation at all levels of leadership.

Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we set ourselves the target of building a gender-balanced organisation, focusing on our management. From 38% of women in management in 2010, we reached our 50:50 target in 2019, a year ahead of schedule.

While we still have more to do in other areas of our business, that was an important milestone for gender balance.

Now we want to go further, ensuring that we accelerate representation at leadership level that is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity as well as gender. In 2020, we established a Racial and Ethnic Equity Taskforce, which helps us develop our racial equity framework. We are focusing our efforts in 2021 to accelerating representation of Black and Brown talent in four lead markets: Brazil, South Africa, the UK and the US.

We’re also looking at how we tackle equity in representation for all of the 149,000 people who enable us to sell our products across more than 190 countries: because our workforce should fundamentally represent the demographic of the communities we operate in, all over the world.

How we're becoming a beacon of diversity and inclusion.

A woman and a man sitting talking on a sofa in an office

Removing barriers for people with disabilities

5% of our workforce to be made up of people with disabilities by 2025.

We aim to be recognised as the number one employer of choice for people with disabilities. Like our commitment to achieving 5% representation, it's an ambition that involves transforming the way we recruit and train our people. And it means adapting both the way we work and our workplaces, so we can support people with disabilities to reach their full potential.

But people with a disability are among the most under-represented populations in terms of employment and educational opportunity. We want to address this inequality by removing the obstacles that block people’s progress – as well through tackling stereotypes.

We’ve made a good start in creating accessibility standards around key processes, raising awareness to combat stigma and enhancing the culture of inclusion but there’s much more to do. We need to get a more nuanced understanding of the barriers our employees with a disability face and we’re collecting baseline data to inform our direction.

How we're becoming a beacon of diversity and inclusion.

Woman on an online meeting

Spending more with diverse businesses

Spend €2 billion annually with diverse businesses worldwide by 2025.

Creating opportunity is one of the most important ways to build an inclusive world. Ensuring people have fair access to business opportunities – including opportunities created by working with Unilever – can drive economic inclusion and empowerment.

But too many people miss out when it comes to setting up or running businesses, facing barriers that prevent them from playing their full part in economies and communities. Poor access to skills, training, role models and affordable finance, for example, disproportionately hold back women and people from diverse communities.

We want to open up those opportunities by supporting new and existing diverse suppliers to join our procurement network. We’re aiming to spend €2 billion a year by 2025 with suppliers that are majority-owned, managed or controlled by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQI+ or people with disabilities. That's a seven-fold increase on 2020.

We’ll expand our support for small and medium-sized diverse businesses with a comprehensive supplier development programme. That will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities for diverse-owned SMEs.

We believe that the more closely we represent the diversity of our consumer base in our supplier base, the better business we'll have. We'll tailor our approach according to local needs, working with local communities and relevant certifying bodies in each market to develop a package of dedicated business support.

We’ll promote supplier diversity throughout our value chain. Through our Partner with Purpose programme, we’ll work with our partners to encourage them to drive supplier diversity in their own supply chains. We’re expanding our supplier diversity programmes in North America and South Africa into other regions around the world, building on their successes and learnings.

Promoting diverse suppliers explains how we’re making this goal a reality.

Showing more diversity in our advertising

Increase representation of diverse groups in our advertising.

The advertising and marketing industry has tremendous impact, and therefore great responsibility when it comes to the portrayals, images and stories we put out into the world. What we see and hear when we consume advertising can shape our perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and the way we view other people. And for too long, advertising has failed to reflect people as they truly are and done little to tackle stereotypes and harmful norms that hold people back and lead to inequality.

As one of the world’s biggest advertisers, we have a responsibility to make our ads work towards the fairer future we want to see. We want our brands and our advertising to drive positive change by preventing discrimination and the reinforcement of negative stereotypes.

Since the launch of the Unstereotype initiative in 2016, we've made a good start on transforming the way we portray women, men and under-represented groups. And through the Unstereotype Alliance, launched in 2017 with UN Women, we've been part of a wider movement to drive change across the global advertising sector.

However, despite the progress made, the advertising industry is still under-representing many communities, both on screen and behind the camera, including people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ communities and those from Black or ethnic minority backgrounds.

Unstereotype seeks to eradicate harmful stereotypes from advertising and advance more progressive portrayals of people. As part of our commitment, we’ll now also critically address the lack of representation of certain audiences in the advertising industry with our new goal.

Transforming our brands, transforming our advertising.

A moral imperative and a business no-brainer

There doesn't need to be a business case for doing the right thing. When it comes to inclusion, the business case is as plain as the moral one. We're convinced that driving equity, diversity and inclusion makes our business stronger.

We know a more diverse and inclusive workforce can boost performance, reputation, innovation and staff motivation – and bring us closer to our consumers. That helps us grow.

Creating more inclusive advertising that positively reflects the diversity of our audiences has been proven to deliver stronger business results, including higher purchase intention and greater branded impact. And promoting diversity in our supply and distribution chain opens new opportunities for us, as well as for the people who help us make and sell our products.