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Championing inclusion via our brands

Average read time: 13 minutes

Inequality is one of the biggest threats our world faces. Urgent action is needed to accelerate inclusion in our societies, improving livelihoods and ultimately health and wellbeing outcomes for all.

A woman in a headscarf jogging down a tree-lined road

A more inclusive and representative world

Even before Covid-19 disrupted lives, inequalities existed across the world. The pandemic exacerbated these inequalities and deepened divides further. For instance, the coronavirus brought gender inequality into focus, with more women carrying the responsibilities of caring for children and home-schooling. It also exposed racial inequities, with the Black Lives Matter movement highlighting systemic racism the world over.

We’re removing the barriers that prevent us getting to the world we want to see. First, we’re getting our own house in order by transforming our policies and practices to eliminate discrimination and bias in our workplace. We’re transforming our advertising, shattering stereotypes and enhancing representation. And with 2.5 billion people using our products every day, it’s vital we also harness the power of our brands to help bring about a more inclusive and representative society for all people, no matter their gender, what they look like, who they love, or what their bodies can or can’t do.

Whether it’s Ben & Jerry’s supporting refugees, Sunsilk encouraging girls to think big, or Brooke Bond bringing people together over a cup of tea, more and more of our purpose-led brands are taking a lead in promoting a more inclusive society.

Brooke Bond Red Label: Taste of Togetherness

Brooke Bond Red Label is one of India’s largest-selling tea brands. We strongly believe that a comforting cup of tea can help break down social barriers and bring people together.

At a time when Covid-19 patients and health workers faced prejudice and often hostility, Red Label's Taste of Togetherness ad campaign in India attempted to shatter the stigma. Its simple message was: being told to ‘stay alone’ is not the same as being ‘left alone’.

Empowering women

Our Sunsilk brand campaigns to help girls gain the vision, support, skills and confidence needed to go beyond social limitations. So in partnership with the global NGO, Girl Rising, Sunsilk developed the Explore More Possibilities educational programme. This encourages girls to imagine a new way forward through education materials aimed at inspiring them in the classroom.

Alan Jope, our CEO

Women's equality is the single greatest unlock for social and economic development globally.

Alan Jope, our CEO

In Indonesia, our Sunlight brand partners with UN Women on the WeLearn digital platform. This is improving equal learning opportunities to empower women who want to start or grow their business.

In Indonesia, nearly two-thirds of registered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are managed by women. However, compared to businesses started by men, women-led MSMEs tend to be concentrated in low productivity, low value sectors. These female entrepreneurs can struggle to develop their business, facing hurdles such as the burden of unpaid care or domestic work, and lack of access to business networks and skills training. WeLearn equips women entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary business and digital skills to be able to adapt to the changing world of work.

In India, Glow & Lovely Careers brings to life our brand's mission – to help women secure a better future through education. It’s been running since 2003 and has expanded its reach through a mobile career and education platform which offers a curated selection of courses and resources.

Support for dads

World icon

<50% Of countries have a parental leave policy for fathers

Parental leave gives dads the chance to care for the people who matter most, at a time when support is often needed. ​

The benefits are countless – for dads, for partners and for children. But restrictive stereotypes and a lack of access to paid parental leave prevent many men from taking this important time away from work. In the US, for example, less than one in five men are offered any paid parental leave, and most dads who do have it don’t believe they can take their full time off to care for their families. ​

Dove Men+Care wants to change this pattern, so the brand is working with partnerships such as the Parental Leave Corporate Task Force to champion parental leave and higher uptake for fathers. ​

Through these partnerships, research and advocacy, Dove Men+Care is helping challenge stereotypes, developing useful resources for dads and helping shape better policies and workplace culture in this area. ​

Father holds young child

A different vision of beauty

Project #ShowUs is driving change across the industry. In partnership with Getty Images and the Girlgaze network, our Dove brand created the world’s largest image library produced and curated by women to shatter beauty stereotypes. It’s a collection of 10,000 images that offer a more inclusive vision of beauty for all media and advertisers to use.

It’s just one of the many things Dove is doing to celebrate real beauty and boost self-esteem.

Promoting racial equity

We’re also celebrating and empowering women of colour and working to help promote racial equity.

Sundial: empowering New Voices

Our Sundial Brands business is dedicated to inclusive beauty, serving the unmet needs of people of colour in the US through products including SheaMoisture.

Unilever and Sundial have created the New Voices Fund to empower women of colour entrepreneurs. With an initial investment of US$50 million, the intention is to scale the fund to US$100 million.

SheaMoisture has also established a $1 million fund as part of its community commerce model.

Eradicating race-based hair discrimination

Narrow beauty standards make it difficult for women to freely celebrate their own beauty. While many women experience pressure to conform to certain standards of appearance, Black women are disproportionately impacted by the Eurocentric standards that so often define what is beautiful.

Society’s bias has resulted in unfair judgement and discrimination against Black women based on hair texture and protective hairstyles including braids, locs and twists that are inherent to their race.

In the US, the law in many states does not currently afford protection from race-based hair discrimination, even if the hairstyle is inherent to racial identity. That means Black women can be denied opportunities for employment or professional advancement without consequence. And it means Black children can be denied entry to school or educational opportunities because of their natural hair.

That’s why, in 2019, Dove co-founded the CROWN Coalition in partnership with the National Urban League, Color Of Change, and Western Center on Law and Poverty to advance anti-hair discrimination legislation called the CROWN Act.

The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. It's a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyle. Our mission is to advance efforts to end hair discrimination and to create a more equitable and inclusive beauty experience for Black women and girls. In 2020, the CROWN Act became law in seven US states and the House of Representatives passed the bill at the federal level.

We’re now expanding this campaign across the world. The CROWN UK Fund, for instance, will invest £170,000 during 2021 to help eliminate barriers to progress for Black women and girls. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has developed a workshop with educators and experts to support teachers in discussions about hair discrimination, which aims to touch over 35,000 lives within a year. And Dove has become the first brand to support the Halo Collective, led by The Advocacy Academy, to champion the Halo Code within the workplace and help to end hair discrimination for good.

Bringing equity in skincare for Black and Brown skin

Our skin is the barrier between our bodies and the outside world, and the health of our skin is essential to our overall wellbeing. In tough circumstances, skin problems are common and can cause great discomfort, sometimes worsening to life-changing conditions if not addressed. For the last 150 years, Vaseline® has been committed to helping heal skin everywhere. But this goal can’t be achieved if part of the Vaseline® community doesn’t have access to equal care.

In the US, nearly half of dermatologists say they were not adequately trained to treat skin of colour. We’ve made it our mission to bring equity in skincare for Black and Brown skin.

Through our partnerships with Medscape and Direct Relief, we’re working to train dermatologists and medical practitioners to better treat, diagnose and care for skin of colour. In partnership with Hued, we’ve introduced a new dermatologist finder tool. This allows people of colour to identify and connect with dermatologists of colour and those experienced in treating Black and Brown skin. Hued’s online platform also offers educational resources that provide expert recommendations.

We’ve partnered with actress, director and advocate Regina King on this video, highlighting inequities in healthcare, which has led to the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on Black and Latinx communities.

Since 2015, Vaseline® has also worked with Direct Relief to support a network of health centres and clinics that provide affordable, comprehensive and culturally competent services to those who need it most through the Vaseline® Healing Project. This provides dermatological care, Vaseline® Jelly and the medical supplies needed to help heal the skin of people affected by poverty or emergencies around the world. As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (PDF 8.02MB) we set a target to help heal the skin of 5 million people by 2020 through the Project. In fact, we reached over 6 million people.

Helping people with disabilities to thrive

More than 1 billion people – 15% of the world’s population – live with a disability and that number is rising. In our business, we’re creating a culture where people with disabilities can thrive. Our brands are taking action too, making sure that diversity and representation are part of their values.

Rexona: inspiring everyone to move

Everyone should have the right, access and confidence to move more. Yet that opportunity is not distributed equally. People lack access to movement because of barriers such as cultural expectations and discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race or ability, while others simply don’t have access to the spaces and places to move freely. Our deodorant brand Rexona is setting out to change that through its #MoveYourWay campaign.

Football player with one leg, kicking a football

In the UK, Rexona is partnering with One City Disability, an award-winning programme of football activities run by City in the Community. This is part of Rexona’s partnership with Manchester City Football Club, one of the top sides in the English Premier League.

One City Disability’s aim is to ensure that every person who joins the programme is able to participate and develop football skills regardless of their disability or impairment. For Rexona, this also means unstereotyping our advertising and representing movement in diverse, equitable and inclusive ways.

In Indonesia, Rexona’s campaign Gerak Tak Terbatas (Move Beyond Boundaries) invites people to move beyond boundaries. As part of the campaign, a new app called Gerak by Rexona was launched. It registers the step count of people from all over Indonesia and converts them into donations towards mobility aids to support disabled societies and clubs.

Rexona’s new Breaking Limits programme was launched on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a day that celebrates the power of sport to drive social change and community development. Breaking Limits sets out to use sport and physical activity to give young people the confidence to overcome barriers and achieve more. The programme builds on research by Rexona showing that about half of people worry about not being good enough, four in ten fear being judged, and almost half say they feel self-conscious when doing physical activity, especially when trying something new.

The first deodorant designed for people with disabilities

Degree – also sold as Rexona, Sure and Shield in different countries – has worked with a diverse team of experts to put the specific needs of consumers with disabilities at the forefront of a new concept: Degree Inclusive, the world’s first adaptive deodorant. Its hooked container is designed for one-handed usage. Enhanced grip placement and magnetic ‘click’ closures make it easier for users with limited grip or sight to remove and replace the cap. A larger roll-on applicator means the product reaches a greater surface area per swipe and the label includes instructions in braille. Degree Inclusive is available in the US, where around 60 million people live with a disability.

Supporting LGBTQI+

We believe in equality for everyone, everywhere, no matter who they are or who they love. While we pride ourselves on being a diverse and tolerant business, we know that there is still much to be done to make the world more tolerant and inclusive.

So our brands are taking action.

Ben & Jerry’s, for instance, has long supported LGBT rights and marriage equality. Back in 1989, Ben & Jerry's was the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same-sex couples. It didn't feel like a revolutionary gesture at the time, we just knew it was the right and fair thing to do.

Since then, Ben & Jerry’s has supported the LGBT movement in many ways. For example, in 2009 we celebrated gay marriage in Vermont by renaming our Chubby Hubby ice cream as Hubby Hubby. And in 2015, we marked the US Supreme Court's momentous decision on marriage equality, renaming our Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavour I Dough, I Dough for the summer.

We love celebrating love and LGBT successes. When it comes to transgender rights, however, the situation is less positive. Hate crimes are on the rise at an alarming rate and we’re raising awareness of violence against transgender people. Ben & Jerry’s supports the International Trans Day of Visibility and lobbied for the Equality Act to strengthen human rights for trans people.

Closeup – Freedom to Love

Over the 50 years that Closeup has stood for closeness, we’ve learned that love happens in more ways than one. Even though the world has made strides in embracing diversity, to follow one’s heart and be with someone regardless of differences in race, gender, religion, class, or identity, is often easier said than done. Closeup pledges to champion love of all kinds. Not just in words but through tangible support.

As our Closeup whitepaper reveals, although most young people yearn for a world where everyone can be free to love the person they are attracted to, fewer than three in five believe they have the freedom of attraction. 

And it’s not hard to see why: relationships can face prejudice as society passes judgement on couples whose pairing falls outside of what it defines as conventional and appropriate. Such couples are more likely to face unfavourable attitudes, feel less accepted and experience dismissive or demeaning treatment. Our research shows that 46% are afraid of discrimination, judgement or public shame, while 39% fear being expelled from or disowned by their family or society.

In 2021, we’re piloting Love For All – a relationship advice portal for diverse kinds of couples to access content such as expert advice, true stories and factoids, and featuring on-the-ground NGO partners.