Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace

Fairness in the workplace is about respecting the rights of all those who work with us.

Millions of people work in our operations and extended supply chain, helping us create the products used by billions more. For us, fairness in the workplace is about respecting, and advancing, their human rights - everywhere we operate, and in everything we do.

Our guiding principle is that business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, advanced and upheld. We believe respecting and promoting human rights form the foundation for a healthy, sustainable and equitable business, and are essential for effective relationships with everyone we depend on. The Fairness in the Workplace pillar of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan contributes to a number of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, namely: Goal 1 No poverty; 3 Good health and well-being; 8 Decent work and economic growth; 10 Reduce inequality; 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions; and 17 Partnerships for the goals.

As our CEO, Paul Polman, explains: "Safe working conditions; freedom of association; fair wages; protection from forced labour; and freedom from harassment and discrimination: these must become universal operating conditions. Today, they are not."

By working in partnership and through a process of continuous improvement, we aim to achieve fairness in the workplace for all the people with whom we work.

Our strategy

We will drive fairness in the workplace by advancing human rights across our operations and extended supply chain.

China HR Team

Why fairness in the workplace matters to us

We want to deliver positive social impact as well as business growth - it is fundamental to our purpose as a business. Fairness in the workplace is directly linked to our licence to operate and the reputation of our brands and the Unilever name. It contributes to business continuity, helps us attract and retain the best talent, increases productivity, and builds long-term value to shareholders. We have set a number of targets to advance human rights and to enhance the health and safety of our employees.

Our approach to human rights

We aim to uphold and promote human rights in three main ways:

  • In our operations by upholding our values and standards.
  • In our relationships with our suppliers and other business partners.
  • By working through external initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact.

We focus most on our ‘salient’ human rights issues (PDF | 5MB) - that is, those that are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through our activities or business relationships.

This approach is in line with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the United Nations in 2011. We use the Guiding Principles to underpin our own high standards of corporate behaviour: they help us to identify and tackle systemic causes of abuse, and to work collaboratively and openly with others. We continue to align our policies with the UN Guiding Principles - for example, by strengthening our Code of Business Principles and our internal Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy.

Our policies and codes drive our internal and external compliance requirements along our whole value chain. Our Framework for Fair Compensation helps us drive our objective to achieve full compliance with the Framework by 2020, including the principle of a living wage for all our direct employees. Through our Responsible Sourcing Policy, we extend the concepts of the Framework to our suppliers of goods, services or contingent labour.

Our approach to health & safety

Improving our employees’ health, safety and well-being is integral to fairness in the workplace. We instill safety in the behaviour of our people and the design of our sites and products, guided by a vision of Zero: Zero fatalities; Zero injuries; Zero motor vehicle incidents; Zero process incidents; and Zero tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices.

This sits alongside our aim to promote, maintain and enhance the health of our employees to maximise their fitness to work safely and effectively. We seek to make a positive impact on their health and well-being – to bring benefits for individuals and our business – through our health promotion and protection programmes. Our strategy for medical and occupational health focuses on promoting the physical and mental well-being of our employees and preventing occupational ill-health.

Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Progress to date

In our inaugural Human Rights Report (PDF | 5MB) in 2015, we explained how, and why, we identified our eight most salient human rights issues. With these in mind, we prioritised the need to address human rights impacts across our own and extended supply chain, with a focus on commodities and specific countries. In 2016, we carried out a social footprint mapping exercise of our tea supply chain using external information and information provided by our Procurement function. By considering the level of traceability we have for each sourcing location, the human rights risks in each of these locations and the procedures we have in place to respond to identified risks, this initial risk mapping exercise gave us a better understanding of our operational risks and opportunities. Our Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP) (PDF | 9MB) sets out our commitment to do business with suppliers who are working to ensure transparency, remedy shortcomings and drive continuous improvement in the area of responsible sourcing.

In 2016 we created a new role - Global Vice-President Integrated Social Sustainability - to assume responsibility for all areas of supply chain social sustainability. This includes assurance, compliance and audit for our own operations, suppliers and third parties, as well as integrating all aspects of our social impact agenda in our Supply Chain function and across Unilever.

For our direct employees, we rolled out our Framework for Fair Compensation in 2016 (PDF | 445KB). This is a structured way for us to outline how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation, including a living wage. We are using the Fair Wage Network to develop our understanding of living wages further, and compare our lowest level employees' compensation against relevant living wage thresholds. And through our Lamplighter employee health programme and our Vision Zero strategy we continued to improve the health and safety of our workforce.

Future challenges

The UN Guiding Principles make clear that the role of government is to protect human rights and that of business is to respect human rights.

In some countries however, governments are failing in their responsibility to protect human rights through the absence of effective laws and their enforcement. When that happens, business is often expected both to protect and respect human rights. In many parts of the world inequality is widening and labour rights and health and safety conditions are worsening. Globally there is an increasingly vulnerable migrant workforce, potentially resulting in human trafficking and forced labour. Reporting requirements for businesses are increasing in some jurisdictions, such as the Modern Slavery Act in the UK (PDF | 2MB).

While there are many complex challenges inherent in human rights, and we are the first to admit we do not have all the answers, we consider these three areas to be key:

  • Addressing endemic human rights issues and their root causes.
  • Respect for land rights.
  • Ensuring that grievance mechanisms are effective, trusted and used.

We describe our approach to these and other issues in Understanding our human rights impacts. In addition, we plan to publish our second Human Rights Report in 2017.

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Downloads

Annual Report and Accounts 2016 (PDF | 3MB)


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Taking action

We are taking action on human rights, fair compensation, and health and safety to ensure the well-being of those who work with us.

Targets & performance

As part of the Fairness in the Workplace pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set ambitious targets on advancing human rights, fair compensation, improving employee health, nutrition and well-being, and reducing workplace injuries and accidents.

Fairness in the workplace
Our commitment

By 2020, we will drive fairness in the workplace by further building human rights across our operations and advancing human rights in our extended supply chain, developing a continuous improvement roadmap and promoting best practice. We will create a framework for fair compensation, and help employees take action to improve their health (physical and mental), nutrition and well-being. We will reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

Our performance

In 2016 we continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues which are documented in our 2015 Human Rights Report. To support this, we integrated our Human Rights function into our Supply Chain organisation. 67% of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

We also rolled out our Framework for Fair Compensation, which includes principles on a living wage and no discrimination in pay for our employees.

70 countries ran our Lamplighter employee health programme and our safety performance (Total Recordable Frequency Rate) was 1.01 accidents per million hours worked, an improvement on 2015. We continued to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, focusing on training programmes on safety leadership and process safety.

Our perspective

By integrating our Human Rights function into our Supply Chain organisation, we gave the new team responsibility for all areas of social sustainability in our supply chain, including accountability, compliance and audit which previously sat within our Procurement team. This will help us further embed human rights across our business and focus on the eight salient human rights issues we documented in our first Human Rights Report in 2015. ‘Salient issues’ are those that are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through a company’s activities or business relationships.

For suppliers, we continued the phased implementation of our Responsible Sourcing Policy and initiated a review of our learnings in operating the Policy since its launch in 2014. We will use these to accelerate take-up of the Policy.

For our workforce, as well as rolling out our global Framework for Fair Compensation, we continued our Lamplighter employee health programme and our Thrive workshops designed to improve well-being. We also continued to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy (ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices) and our safety performance improved compared to 2015.

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Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

We will implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout our operations and report on progress publicly.

In 2016 we continued to embed human rights with a focus on our eight salient human rights issues which are documented in our 2015 Human Rights Report.


Our Perspective

We became the first company to use the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework comprehensively when we published our Human Rights Report in 2015. It describes our overall approach to human rights and our priorities, including eight ‘salient issues’ for our business.

In 2016 we integrated our Human Rights function into our Supply Chain. The new team now has responsibility for all areas of social sustainability in our supply chain, including accountability, compliance and audit.

Through a social footprint mapping exercise of our tea supply chain, we considered the level of traceability we have for each sourcing location and its human rights risks, and the procedures we have in place to respond to identified risks. This initial risk mapping exercise has given us a better understanding of our operational risks and opportunities.

Oxfam published their report acknowledging our substantial progress while emphasising the need to continue working collaboratively to address systemic issues.

Advancing human rights in our own operations

Source 100% of procurement spend in line with our responsible sourcing policy

We will source 100% of our procurement spend through suppliers who commit to promote fundamental human rights as specified in our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

67% of procurement spend through suppliers meeting the mandatory requirements of our Responsible Sourcing Policy in 2016.


Our Perspective

In 2016 we purchased around €34 billion of goods and services. The suppliers of these goods and services are central to driving efficiencies to enhance profitability and to helping us implement the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

We continued the phased implementation of our Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP). By the end of the year, 67% of our procurement spend was through suppliers meeting these mandatory requirements, up from 54% in 2015. We initiated a review of our learnings from operating the RSP, and will use this to fine-tune our approach and accelerate take up of the Policy.

Advancing human rights with suppliers

Create a framework for fair compensation

  • We will create a framework for fair compensation, starting with an analysis in 180 countries by 2015.

We will work with external organisations, including our social partners, referring to approaches such as living wage methodologies.

We created a Framework for Fair Compensation in 2015 which we rolled out in 2016. We use The Fair Wage Network to provide a global database of relevant living wage benchmark data for each country in which we have operations. This enables us to compare non-management employees’ lowest fixed earnings levels against relevant living wage benchmarks.


Our Perspective

Our Framework for Fair Compensation provides a structured way for Unilever to outline how the various elements of our compensation packages deliver fair compensation to our employees. We want all our businesses worldwide to comply with all five principles of our Framework, including a living wage and no discrimination in pay, by 2020.

We use an external authority - The Fair Wage Network - to provide a global database of relevant living wage benchmark data for each country in which we have employees. This gives us an ongoing system and methodology to monitor our employees’ rewards against relevant living wage benchmarks, and supports compliance with the Framework by our businesses around the world.

Fair compensation

Improve employee health, nutrition and well-being

Our Lamplighter employee programme aims to improve the nutrition, fitness and mental resilience of employees. By 2010 it had already been implemented in 30 countries, reaching 35,000 people.



  • In 2011 we aimed to extend the reach of Lamplighter to a further eight countries. We will implement Lamplighter in an additional 30 countries between 2012 and 2015. Our longer-term goal is to extend it to all the countries where we operate with over 100 people.

Our Lamplighter programme reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries by 2014, achieving our target a year early. In 2016, Lamplighter again reached 70 countries, and around 83,000 employees.


  • We will implement a mental well-being framework globally.

In 2015 we completed the two-year roll-out of our new module for mental well-being and established a global steering committee to monitor progress.


Our Perspective

Our Lamplighter employee health programme is key to addressing the top three health risks across our business: mental well-being; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury).

Lamplighter helps to safeguard employees’ health, improve productivity and reduce costs. It reached 91,000 employees across 70 countries in 2014, fulfilling our target to reach 68 countries a year early. In 2016, there were around 83,000 employees in 70 countries enrolled on the programme (this number fluctuates from year to year as we do not cover every employee on a yearly basis).

In 2015, we rolled out Lamplighter’s mental well-being module. This helps people manage their pressures, offering practical advice on how to focus and practise mindfulness techniques, to feel more empowered and to work in an agile manner. Over 2015-2016, more than 41,000 employees completed one of our Thrive Workshops to help them put well-being into practice.

Improving employee health & well-being

Reduce workplace injuries and accidents

We aim for zero workplace injuries. By 2020 we will reduce the Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) for accidents in our factories and offices by 50% versus 2008.

Over 50% reduction in TRFR achieved by 2016, down to 1.01 from 2.10 accidents per 1 million hours worked in 2008.


Our Perspective

Our Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) improved to 1.01 accidents per 1 million hours worked (measured October 2015-September 2016), down from 1.12 in 2015. This was driven by the continuous focus on safety in our World Class Manufacturing programme and the BeSafE campaign in our non-manufacturing sites. We will consider our target fully achieved once we reach 2020; until then, our challenge is to keep our performance on track.

We continue to reinforce our Vision Zero strategy, ie zero: fatalities; injuries; motor vehicle incidents; process incidents; tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices.

In 2016 we rolled out a mandatory safety leadership programme to build awareness of safety from the top down. We also delivered process safety training and certification programmes that are important career development qualifications for those working in our Supply Chain function.

In 2015 we banned the use of handheld and hands-free phones while driving on company business.

Creating a safe workplace
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