Inclusive business

Unilever's work on inclusive business supports

5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Select one of the goals to find out how we're taking action in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Find out how we’re realising the business opportunity from the SDGs
Climate Action

Climate Action

Few now seriously challenge the need for urgent action on climate change – from greening the grid to eliminating deforestation. Thanks to the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries are pressing ahead with low-carbon reforms, helping to open up around $23 trillion in opportunities for climate-smart investments by 2030. Investing to eliminate carbon emissions from our operations is the smart choice for Unilever, reducing costs and risk. For example, our eco-efficiency savings have avoided cumulative energy costs of over €490 million since 2008.

We have already increased the amount of energy purchased from renewable sources and aim to eliminate coal from our energy mix by 2020 – with an ambition to become carbon positive by 2030, making the surplus energy available to the markets and communities where we operate.

Unilever has long recognised the interdependency of climate and forests. We helped lead the Consumer Goods Forum towards a zero-deforestation commitment across four commodities, including palm oil. We are tackling deforestation in the palm oil industry through our own sustainable palm oil commitment and partnerships. We have committed to invest up to $25 million between 2018 and 2022 to support sustainable commodity projects via the &Green fund. Our investment will focus on smallholder palm oil farmers in Indonesia, thereby securing the supply of sustainable palm oil.

In support of enhanced disclosure of climate risk, Unilever has committed to implement the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure recommendations, including the impact of 2°C and 4°C global warming scenarios.

Inclusive business

Millions of people help source, make and sell our products. We want to help them unlock even more of their potential – so they can support themselves, their communities and our business.

Inclusive business pillar

Building connections, removing barriers

There's a story behind every one of our products – the story of the people who make them possible.

The people in our factories and sites who make our brands play a crucial part. And beyond our walls, there is a network of millions more, from the smallholder farmers in our extended supply chain, to the retailers and entrepreneurs who bring our brands to new and existing consumers.

All over the world, we rely on and support the people who contribute to our success. We have strong connections with them already and we want to make them even stronger. By helping to remove the barriers to growth faced by the people in our value chain, we aim to help them grow and thrive.

Unlocking the potential of millions

Through technology, training, increased access to finance and markets, and better ways of working, we believe we can help millions of people unlock their potential. In the process, we're contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including No Poverty (SDG 1), and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8).

Making our organisation more inclusive also makes strong business sense. It helps secure our essential raw materials, expands the markets for our products and increases the resilience of our business model in an uncertain world.

Our strategy


We aim to contribute to economic wellbeing through wealth creation, financial inclusion, employment, improving skills and providing access to markets. That means creating a virtuous cycle of growth that both drives and is driven by our business.

We want our approach to be holistic and integrated with the business, because we recognise that social, environmental and commercial progress are all interconnected. We know that smallholder farmers, for instance, often lack access to markets, financial support, and information and training. They can also be held back by poor diet, gender inequalities and health problems, including those caused by inadequate sanitation.

Our programmes and partnerships are aimed at helping to enhance the livelihoods of smallholders, as well as promoting sustainable agricultural practices, empowering women, advancing human rights and fairness in the workplace, and improving health & hygiene and nutrition.

Similarly, our work with small-scale retailers in our distribution network focuses on helping them build their capacity and addressing the barriers that currently hold them back, such as limited market information, access to credit, and a lack of business or financial management skills. By tackling these obstacles to growth, we create further ways to have a positive social impact – such as by expanding opportunities for women in our value chain.

Our commitment

By 2020, we will have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people by improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and the incomes of small-scale retailers, and by increasing the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Progress to date

In 2019, we enabled around 793,000 smallholder farmers and 1.8 million small-scale retailers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices or increase their incomes.ЖΦ

†  Independently assured by PwC

Ж Around 568,000 women have accessed initiatives under both the Inclusive Business and the Opportunities for Women pillars in 2018. 

Φ Measured 1 October – 30 September.

Future challenges

While we have made good progress in improving the agricultural practices of many of our smallholder farmers through certification programmes, the challenge is to provide proof of impact that extends beyond these practices, in areas such as health and nutrition, which can act as barriers to improved livelihoods. These issues must be addressed holistically and systematically. That's why we are working with a wide range of partners to improve the systems and infrastructure in which smallholders operate.

Similarly, for small-scale retailers, our ambition is to improve incomes through programmes such as Shakti and Kabisig Summits. We have evidence that our sales increase through such initiatives but there is more work to be done to quantify the impact on small-scale retailer incomes.

Another key element of building a more inclusive business, and contributing to a more prosperous world, is financial inclusion. An estimated 2 billion people around the world don’t have access to many basic financial services – and without that access, it is harder for people to manage their lives, engage fully with the economy and invest in their futures.

We’re developing partnerships to expand access to financial services, including among women, farmers and small businesses. Our flagship Jaza Duka partnership with Mastercard in Kenya, which enables retailers to access interest-free credit to order stock, is an example of this kind of collaboration. We expect to explore more models like Jaza Duka, which is described in Empowering small-scale retailers for growth, in 2020 and beyond.

Inclusive business
Our commitment

By 2020, we will have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people, by improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, improving the incomes of small-scale retailers and increasing the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Our performance

By 2019, we had enabled around 793,000 smallholder farmers and 1.8 million small-scale retailers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices or increase their incomes.† Ж Φ

Our perspective

We have enabled around 1.8 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network to access initiatives aiming to increase their incomes, principally through Perfect Store, Kabisig Summits in the Philippines and Shakti in India, and a number of other markets, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria, Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador. We do not report all small-scale retailer initiatives due to data availability and quality issues.

Through our commitment to sourcing sustainably – in particular cocoa, tea, palm oil, vanilla and vegetable crops – we continue to provide training to improve smallholder farmer agricultural practices, having already exceeded our 2020 target. By working with our suppliers and partners, we have enabled around 793,000 smallholder farmers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices.

 Independently assured by PwC

Ж Around 568,000 women have accessed initiatives under both the Inclusive Business and the Opportunities for Women pillars in 2019.

Φ Measured 1 October – 30 September.


  • Achieved 0

  • On-Plan 1

  • Off-Plan 2

  • %

    Of target achieved 0

Key to our performance
  • Achieved

    This is the number of targets we have achieved

  • On-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are on track to achieve

  • Off-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are currently not on track

  • %

    Of target achieved

    This is the percentage of the target we are on track to achieve

Our targets

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

Improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers

Our goal is to engage with at least 500,000 smallholder farmers in our supply network. We will help them improve their agricultural practices, and thus enable them to become more competitive. By doing so, we will improve the quality of their livelihoods.

By 2019, we had enabled around 793,000 smallholder farmers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices.


Our perspective

We continue to expand our programmes aiming to improve the agricultural practices of smallholder farmers. In 2019, we increased our reach by over 40,000 smallholder farmers largely through the expansion of existing smallholder programmes such as the Tea Sri Lanka, the Trustea Smallholder Farmers Initiative in India and the Upscaling Vanilla Madagascar Initiative.

Our programmes help smallholders improve their yields and increase the quality and consistency of the crops they grow. That gives them the platform to increase their incomes, while giving us the visibility and security of supply we need.

We recognise that smallholder farmers often face other barriers to growth and improved incomes – from lack of access to markets, financial support, and information and training. These barriers must be addressed holistically and systematically. We're working to do this in a number of ways: directly with smallholders, with a range of partners, and through certification and other programmes.

Connecting with smallholder farmers to enhance livelihoods

Improve incomes of small-scale retailers

We will create and improve the incomes of 5 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network.

We have enabled around 1.8 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network to access our Perfect Store initiative, as well as other programmes such as the Shakti initiative and Kabisig Summits.


Our perspective

The number of small-scale retailers accessing initiatives increased slightly in 2019 to 1.8 million, principally through the continued roll-out of our Kabisig Summits in the Philippines and the Shakti programme in India and a number of other markets.

While these programmes are making a difference to small retailers at a local level, they have not been at a sufficient scale to help us achieve our target of reaching 5 million small-scale retailers by 2020. We therefore changed our strategy to focus on a mobile-enabled training platform. While this was the right thing to do, it means that we won’t hit our target by 2020.

Empowering small-scale retailers for growth
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