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Engaging with stakeholders

Average read time: 8 minutes

We’re on a mission – to bring real change to improve life for people and protect our planet. But we can’t do this alone.

5 unilever employees in a meeting room with one man standing presenting and the others sitting round the table in discussion

To really make a difference, we need to work with others – NGOs, investors, customers, consumers, suppliers, governments and regulators, and even other businesses through trade associations. These are the key stakeholders we identified as critical to our future success through our Multi-Stakeholder model.

To understand what matters to them, as well as to us, we carry out an annual materiality assessment. This helps us to decide where to focus our engagement, advocacy efforts and partnership working, and how to evolve our strategy and reporting.

Transparent and responsible

We have a strong reputation for doing business with integrity – and we value it. In everything we do, we want to be transparent and honest with our stakeholders. So on our topic pages, you can read ‘Our position on’ a range of subjects.

Maintaining our reputation and building trust demands the highest standards of behaviour. Our Code of Business Principles and Code Policies (PDF 8.52MB) (Opens in a new window) set out the standards we expect from all our employees. We also expect similar behaviour and principles from the people with whom we work.

Our CEO is responsible for upholding our Code. He is supported by our Global Code and Policy Committee, which is chaired by the Chief Legal Officer and Group Secretary. The Committee oversees the Code and Code Policies, ensuring they remain fit for purpose and are appropriately applied. At each meeting, the Committee reviews investigations into non-compliance and is alerted to any trends arising from these investigations.

How we engage with our stakeholders

We interact with a huge range of stakeholders every single day. Here’s a summary of how we engage with some of our largest stakeholder groups. More information can be found on our country websites.

Governments

We work directly with governments, regulators and legislators, and through trade associations, to help develop laws and regulations that may affect our business. For example, we participate in policy discussions on global issues like climate change, as well as detailed subjects like product safety standards.

Our Code covers contact with government, regulators and NGOs (PDF 148KB) (Opens in a new window) and political activities and donations. (PDF 116KB) (Opens in a new window) It goes without saying that these interactions must be approved, compliant with all applicable laws and our Values, and carried out in a transparent manner.

We do not support or fund political parties, candidates or any groups that promote party interests. No political contributions were made in 2020, and we also publish this position in our Annual Report and Accounts . Our employees may offer support and contributions to political groups in a personal capacity.

We provide training on three principles when recruiting from the public sector:

  • We respect confidentiality obligations and restrictive covenants included in all contracts with previous employers.
  • We agree appropriate and reasonable restrictions for people recruited directly from the public sector on a case-by-case basis. This may involve a ‘cooling off’ period where an employee will be restricted from contacting previous colleagues.
  • We have a Code Policy on Avoiding Conflicts of Interests, and adhere to additional principles when recruiting from the public sector.

Unilever is registered in the Transparency Register of the European Union. We comply with the US Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The LDA website (Opens in a new window) provides a searchable database of disclosure filings.

NGOs

Our engagement with NGOs is crucial to delivering the change that we want to see in society. These are often led by our Global Sustainability Team and Corporate Affairs network. We have established partnerships to build on-the-ground programmes to achieve our brands’ social missions. We drive scale through new business models, digital technologies and external financing.

Our leadership also engages with NGOs and other stakeholders through platforms like the World Economic Forum, UN Global Compact, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Consumer Goods Forum. We also engage with NGOs on policy and advocacy.

Suppliers

Every day, we work with thousands of suppliers who are helping us achieve success in the countries where our products are sold. We also work with our strategic suppliers through our Partner with Purpose programme . Combining our expertise, we innovate new products and solutions.

Customers

Our ambition is to be a top supplier to all our customers. With 25 million retail sales outlets globally, that’s a big job! Our customers range from large stores like hypermarkets, supermarkets and e-commerce to smaller, out-of-home services and others.

We work closely with our customers to improve our service and help them achieve their sustainability goals (for example, truckload optimisation to reduce carbon emissions). And we monitor customer satisfaction on a quarterly basis, by country.*

We work directly with large retail chains to generate insights about who visits their stores. To do this, we use technology that creates shopper profiles. This allows us to target and personalise campaigns and develop shopper engagement programmes. This is guided by our Personal Data & Privacy Code Policy (PDF 8.52MB) (Opens in a new window), which helps ensure personal data is handled appropriately.

Consumers

We want to use people power to create a better world – see how you can get involved .

We also want to get to know consumers better – one billion of you to be precise. Our 36 in-house People Data Centres analyse data from social media, consumer carelines and digital marketing to help us respond directly and meaningfully to consumer feedback.

In 2020, we had over 3 million interactions through Consumer Careline calls, emails, letters, social media and webchats. Our engagement with consumers is guided by our Personal Data & Privacy Code Policy (PDF 92KB) (Opens in a new window).

Scientists

We’re committed to investing in science and scientific research to improve our understanding of how our products can benefit public health and wellbeing, and how we can improve their environmental, societal and economic impact.

Our position on science and integrity (PDF 78KB) (Opens in a new window) guides how we work with the scientific community. We follow accepted principles for scientific research, including robustness, objectivity of evidence and transparent engagement. As mandated by our Position on Science and Integrity, we disclose research funding where required, for example in scientific journals which require this level of disclosure.

Communities

We engage with and support livelihoods in many communities across the world. We create direct and indirect employment, pay taxes to governments for reinvestment in infrastructure and communities, and contribute through our corporate community investment activities.

Our Code of Business Principles sets out our commitment to the communities where we operate, and our local businesses drive our community engagement strategy.

Sometimes our business decisions or activities can affect local communities. In these cases, we are guided by a number of policies and standards to ensure communities are adequately protected. We run community outreach activities and communications to listen to any concerns or feedback.

Peer companies

We engage with peer companies – individually, in coalitions and through trade associations – to implement change. This includes working together to implement sustainable business strategies and drive policy agendas which contribute to systems change.

Trade associations

We’re a member of many trade associations around the world. These help us keep up to date with best practices and trends, as well as engage on policy topics.

Our Standard on Trade Association Memberships provides the internal governance and framework for our interactions with trade associations and similar groups. This helps to ensure compliance with our Code of Business Principles and Code Policies (PDF 8.52MB) (Opens in a new window).

All employees participating in association meetings must complete a competition law training module. We also appoint trade association co-ordinators in each country to ensure our Standard is followed.

We continue to review our trade association membership to ensure they reflect our values and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. For instance, in 2019 we wrote to our trade associations on climate (PDF 70KB) (Opens in a new window).

Trade association memberships

We are registered with the Transparency Register of the European Union. Our entry is available here (Opens in a new window) – this includes a list of trade associations with whom we are affiliated. We comply with lobbying disclosure requirements, including the US Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The LDA website provides a searchable database of lobbying disclosure filings.

Our main global, European and US trade associations include:

American Cleaning Institute

American Logistics Association

Association of National Advertisers

B20 (Business at the G20)

Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)

Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC)

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)

Cosmetics Europe

Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA)

Culinaria Europe

Euroglaces Ice Cream Association

European Brands Association (Association des Industries de Marque) (AIM)

European Centre of Public Affairs (ECPA)

European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA)

European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN)

Food and Drink Federation (FDF)

FoodDrinkEurope (FDE)

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP)

International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE)

International Chamber of Commerce

International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA)

International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE)

Organization for International Investment (OFII)

Personal Care Products Council (PCPC)

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)

Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP)

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI)

Sweetener Users Association (SUA)

Tea Association of the USA

The Kangaroo Group

Transparency International

Tropical Forest Alliance 2020

United Nations Global Compact

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

World Economic Forum (WEF)

World Environment Center (WEC)

World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)

*

Based on Advantage Report™ – global across 32 developed markets