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Raise living standards Strategy and goals

In a fair and inclusive society, we believe people should be paid at least a living wage or income – and entrepreneurs should get the support they need to build businesses that benefit them and their communities.

This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • No poverty
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Reduced inequalities

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We want to help improve people's living standards

Of course that means ensuring that our own employees are paid a living wage. But it also means looking beyond our business, to the workers and small business owners who provide our goods and services and ensuring that they enjoy a decent standard of living and have the right support to grow.

A man in a hard hat and high visibility waistcoat studies a dashboard in a factory

Ensuring that people earn at least a living wage or income is a critical step towards building a more equitable world. It allows workers to participate fully in their communities, and helps them break the cycle of poverty. And when people earn a living wage, there’s a direct benefit to the economy, as it stimulates consumer spending, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover and improves job productivity and quality.

Decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent and offers opportunities for everyone.

Alan Jope, our CEO

Raising living standards, sharing value fairly

Raising living standards plays a key role in our commitment to respect human rights. And while fair wages and compensation are embedded in our comprehensive framework of codes and policies, we want to go further by working with others to promote change and create living wage economies.

It’s part of the drive for equity and fair value that underpins the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind’. It’s a natural next step for a business like Unilever, which is committed to equity, everywhere we operate. And it makes commercial sense – because more prosperous, more resilient societies are better places for a business like ours to thrive.

Our goals

We've set ourselves clear goals that will help us help drive global equity through fair wages and raised living standards.

Improving living standards for low-paid workers

Ensure that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever will earn at least a living wage or income by 2030.

We’ve met our commitment to pay all our employees a living wage. Now we want to extend this to all the workers who directly provide us with goods and services.

As we extend our commitment, we’ll specifically focus on the most vulnerable workers in manufacturing and agriculture. We’re working with stakeholders to create systemic solutions to raise living standards through our purchasing practices, through collaboration with partners, and through advocacy wherever we operate. We know we need to take a systemic approach, as wages must be addressed alongside interlinked human rights issues such as working hours, health and safety and discrimination.

We’re taking a phased approach that includes mapping countries and commodities to understand gaps between minimum and living wages, and engaging our Tier 1 suppliers, third-party manufacturers and third-party logistics suppliers. And we’ll be supporting the alignment and benchmarking of existing methodologies and increasing the pool of common data for all to draw on. We’re also creating clear deliverables and performance indicators.

How we're working towards a living wage.

Farmers in Asia sort through their crop

Supporting small retail partners to grow

Help 5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in our retail value chain grow their business through access to skills, finance and technology by 2025.

Our business relies on millions of small and medium-sized enterprises to bring our products to consumers. At the same time, this network of distributors is one of the most important ways we can achieve our ambitions for raising living standards and contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive society. By supporting them to grow, we are confident these SMEs will, in turn, offer more economic opportunities within their communities, for current and future employees, and contribute to local economic growth.

Helping businesses in our retail value chain harness the benefits of digitalisation is central to our strategy. Bringing retailers into the digital economy helps them grow their businesses through increased sales, become more resilient and earn a better income.

We’ll help more small stores gain access to e-B2B platforms so they can engage digitally with Unilever and our distributors.

We’ll also build on our long-standing programmes to promote skills training and empower entrepreneurs, whether in small stores and kiosks, or among the sales agents who are crucial to our ‘last-mile distribution’ models, which bring our products to hard-to-reach consumers, often in areas where there is limited retail infrastructure.

Our network of partnerships will be key to all this work, including with the CEO Partnership for Economic Inclusion, the Better Than Cash Alliance, Mastercard, AXA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Women’s World Banking and others.

How we're helping 5 million SME retailers grow.