Inclusive business

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • No Poverty
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Partnership For The Goals
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  3. Inclusive business
  4. Creating & sharing wealth

Creating & sharing wealth

Our business makes a significant contribution to societies and economies around the world, generating equitable wealth and jobs, improving people's lives through our brands, transferring technology, and training and developing people.

Cocoa farmers in Ghana

Creating value through our business

Our products are sold in more than 190 countries, generating income and employment for retailers and distributors who bring our brands to consumers. We also create value for suppliers – in 2017 we purchased €34 billion of goods and services. Taxes pay for the public goods and services that benefit each one of us, and effective taxation is the foundation of healthy societies. Total taxes borne by Unilever in 2017 were €3.9 billion, of which €2.2 billion was corporation tax.

Unilever fully complies with the tax laws in the countries where we operate, but where the tax law is not clear – or has not kept pace with the way modern business operates – Unilever interprets its tax obligations in a responsible way. At Unilever, Tax Principles provide this reference point.

Distribution of value added

The chart below shows how the value added was distributed among different stakeholders for 2016 – the latest available date at the time of publication.

Unilever Group - Distribution of value added (2017)


Corporate community investment

Unilever’s corporate citizenship contributions excluding management costs totalled €86.7 million in 2017 which is in line with our 2016 community spend. Of these contributions, 95% was from community investments and commercial initiatives aligned to our brands with purpose strategy. Charitable donations made up the remaining 5% of spend. In terms of contribution by type (including management costs of 4%), 72% was from cash contributions, 22% was in-kind and 2% was employee time. Our reporting of community investment is aligned with the LBG methodology for corporate community investment.

Our community investments and public-private partnerships are not based on the traditional model of charitable philanthropy, but instead are aligned with our business’ priorities and strategy in support of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and our five transformational change areas: Climate Change & Forests, Sustainable Agriculture, Land Use & Livelihoods; Health & Well-being; and Women’s Empowerment.

Measuring socio-economic impacts

Over the past 15 years we have conducted a number of quantitative and qualitative studies to evaluate the social and economic impact of our business.

In 2008, we carried out a study with INSEAD international business school in South Africa (PDF | 2MB). André Fourie, CEO, National Business Initiative and South African Reference Group Member for this study, concluded that: "The scope and depth of Unilever's economic 'footprint' demonstrates the value of large corporations to the country, the economy and the broader society."

A 2009 study with leading think tank, the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) in Vietnam (PDF | 841KB). Pham Lan Huong of CIEM, who was the team leader of the research, concluded that "Unilever has proven you can successfully incorporate a social agenda into a company's business agenda, helping to contribute positively to the socio-economic development of the country."

‘Labour Rights in Unilever’s Supply Chain’ (PDF | 2MB), published in early 2013 was a qualitative evaluation of our impact in Vietnam. Oxfam used our Vietnamese operations as its main case study and made six recommendations for our business. There were based around supporting workers’ livelihoods, providing human rights training within the organisation, implementing more ways in which workers can raise areas of concern, and working closely with suppliers and partners to ensure standards are met. We reviewed our Vietnamese supply chain in the light of the recommendations.

In 2016, Oxfam published 'Labour Rights in Vietnam: Unilever's progress and systemic challenges. This documented our work since 2011 in improving conditions for workers in Vietnam. The Oxfam report is the latest in a series of studies on our operations, beginning in Indonesia in 2004.

The report ‘Exploring the Links Between International Business and Poverty Reduction: A case study of Unilever in Indonesia’ found that our local businesses make a significant contribution to the local economy through jobs and economic activity, while highlighting that we could do more to enhance our impact, for example on poverty, employee skills development and small-scale suppliers.

The learnings from these studies have fed into our work to support smallholder farmers and small-scale retailers in our supply and distribution chains, and our global partnerships aimed at creating transformational change.

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