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Worldwide, living standards have not risen fast enough. Current trends are widening, rather than narrowing, social divides. Income inequality is worsening for more than 70% of the world's population – an impact which, like climate change, disproportionately affects the poorest. And barriers to accessing life-changing technology and services block the route to growth – 1.7 billion adults worldwide are still 'unbanked'.
That can and must change.
Breaking the cycle of poverty, unlocking growth
We believe that business can help tackle social inequality and drive the prosperity that will raise living standards for millions of people worldwide. But it needs to be done in a way that shares that prosperity more fairly.
We're determined to pioneer that new way of doing business. And one of the most important ways we can do this is by improving people's incomes and raising living standards.
Quite simply, too many people are not paid enough. They receive an unfair share of the value they create. And their low wages don't just affect them as individuals – they hold back their families and communities.
Freeing people from the cycle of poverty unlocks their potential to do more than survive. Increasing the incomes of the lowest-paid people can unlock huge benefits in terms of health, education, gender equality, and many other features of a fairer and more socially inclusive world. Likewise, enabling access to digital financial services opens new doors to drive business growth and better livelihoods, and is essential to a Covid-19 recovery that builds back better. Enabling people to earn a living wage will support and help stimulate economic recovery in the communities where we operate. This in turn will fuel consumer demand and kickstart the engine of responsible and sustainable economic growth.
The benefits of raising living standards are good for business too. So how does business help unlock them?
Sharing prosperity more fairly
We've worked for more than a decade to develop new and more inclusive business models that enhance people's livelihoods. While the path has been hard at times, we've seen huge progress, reaching millions of people in our value chain.
Now we're taking a step further. We're building on what we've learnt and setting our ambition to raise living standards through new commitments that enable greater prosperity for people in our value chain, and for our business.
We've committed to ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever earns at least a living wage or income by 2030. And by 2025, we’ll help 5 million small and medium-sized enterprises grow their business through access to skills, finance and technology.
That won't be easy. But we believe it’s essential. Because raising living standards is one of the most critical steps on the road to the world we want to see: one that promotes diversity and inclusion and nurtures talent and offers opportunities for everyone.
We believe the actions we’re committing to will make Unilever a better, stronger business; ready for the huge societal changes we are experiencing today – changes that will only accelerate. Without a healthy society, there cannot be a healthy business.Alan Jope, our CEO