Creating and sharing wealth
Our business makes a significant contribution to societies and economies around the world. We generate equitable wealth and jobs, improve people's lives through our brands, transfer technology, and help train and develop people.
How our business is creating value
Our products are sold in more than 190 countries, generating income and employment for the retailers and distributors who bring our brands to consumers. We also create value for suppliers – in 2019, we bought raw materials and packaging materials worth €20 billion to make our products, and services worth €14 billion to help our business run.
We contribute through taxes, which help pay for the public goods and services that benefit society (PDF | 389KB). Total taxes borne by Unilever in 2019 were €3.9 billion, of which €2.5 billion was corporation tax. We fully comply with the tax laws in the countries where we operate. Where the law is not clear, or has not kept pace with modern business practice, we interpret our tax obligations in a responsible manner, using our Tax Principles. Find out more about our approach to tax.
Our corporate community investment
Unilever’s community investment contributions, excluding management costs, totalled €77.9 million in 2018 (€81.1 million, including management costs). We will update our community investment figures for 2019 in May 2020.
Our community investment strategy is aligned with our business priorities and strategy in support of our brands with purpose agenda and the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). It is not based on the traditional model of charitable philanthropy.
In line with our strategy during 2018, we increased our spend on Commercial Initiatives (39% in 2018 versus 30% in 2017) designed to deliver positive social and environmental impact at the same time as growing our brands. We continue to invest in community activities that are strategically aligned to the USLP, accounting for 56% of community investment in 2018. Charitable donations made up the remaining 6% of spend. Our reporting of community investment is aligned with the LBG methodology for corporate community investment.
Community spend by motivation (2018)
Percentage (%) of total: €77.9 million
- Community investment
- Commercial initiatives in the community
- Charitable donations
Community spend by type of contribution (2018)
Percentage (%) of total: €81.1 million
- Employee time
- Management costs
Measuring our socio-economic impacts
Over the past 16 years, we have conducted a number of quantitative and qualitative studies to evaluate the social and economic impact of our business. These include:
- A 2008 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: "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 | 846KB). The team leader of the research, Pham Lan Huong of CIEM, concluded: "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), a qualitative evaluation of our impact in Vietnam, published in 2013. Oxfam used our Vietnamese operations as its main case study and made six recommendations for our business. They 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 efforts since 2011 in improving conditions for workers in Vietnam.
- A series of other Oxfam 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 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.
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.