Helping young entrepreneurs
We want to help more young people benefit from our business. We provide training to enable them to work in the agricultural sector, as well as in our distribution channels.
We have a business need to increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain. Supplies of agricultural raw materials for our business will be threatened if new farmers are not brought into the farming sector. As we grow our business, we will also need more people to distribute our brands to customers and consumers. This will help to create jobs and combat high youth unemployment, as well as provide young people with an opportunity to share in the wealth that our operations generate.
Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set a target to train and enable young people to participate in the agricultural business sector and in the distribution channels of our brands to market.
So far, we have focused our efforts largely through our supply chain, procurement and customer development activities. A number of our programmes benefit young people directly. For example, five per cent of those participating in the Kabisig Summits in the Philippines are young adults, principally women entrepreneurs who have set up community stores. The summits are designed to help these small-scale retailers access the skills and expertise and in doing so improve their incomes through training in stock control, financial management, sales techniques and customer service.
Other initiatives are designed specifically with young people in mind. Below are some more examples of the initiatives we’ve developed to support young people and young entrepreneurs.
Creating a youth-led micro-distribution network in Egypt
Safeer is a key sustainability programme for Unilever in Egypt. The initiative aims to provide opportunities and train a group of young people to support the distribution of Unilever products in the top 1,000 villages in Egypt which otherwise would be too expensive for the Unilever salesforce to reach.
The majority of the salesmen were previously unemployed, but all share a drive to succeed as independent micro-distributors. By providing access to microfinance to buy initial stock, as well as motorbikes to enable transport to rural areas, the young men learn how to maximise their sales, and subsequently their income. There are currently around 480 Safeer salesmen who generate sales of around 150 million Egyptian pounds.
Addressing youth poverty in vanilla producing communities
In Madagascar, we are part of a strategic alliance to support vanilla smallholders, and the wider community, with our supplier Symrise, the German development agency GIZ and NGO Save the Children.
The aim of the development partnership is to increase livelihoods by increasing access to fair financial services, providing community education on health, hygiene and child protection, as well as helping farmers improve their agricultural and business skills.
The programme is also targeting young people to help break the inter-generational transfer of poverty by providing a platform for exploring career opportunities and for accessing skills development, ensuring that future generations are actively engaged and participating in the development of their communities.
To date, the partnership has founded three agricultural colleges, with an additional two new colleges planned in remote rural areas. It has also produced a curriculum for literacy and numeracy ‘catch up’ classes, working in collaboration with the local education ministry, which will be offered to young people who have missed out on vital schooling. In addition, Youth Committees have been established and are active in 36 villages, with over 400 members. These committees are providing a forum for young people to access skills development and vital services, such as leadership training and sexual and reproductive health information, and to discuss and raise concerns about the issues affecting their lives.
The development partnership is partly financed through the develoPPP.de programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Driving growth and helping unemployed youth in Bangladesh
For over a decade, Unilever Bangladesh has pioneered an initiative to recruit unemployed young people to help sell our brands across rural regions of Bangladesh where there is no direct coverage. The initiative, called Pollydut, has become not only a major contributor to Unilever Bangladesh’s growth but also a model of sustainable rural distribution.
Pollydut is Bangla for rural ambassadors. Previously unemployed young men are supported to set up as outreach salespersons through the provision of a bicycle or tricycle vans which serve as mobile shops, and access to microfinance to purchase initial stock. Similar to the Shakti initiative in neighbouring India, Pollydut makes affordable Unilever products available to people living in rural villages and enhances the livelihood of those participating in the initiative.
Starting with 600 unemployed youth, by 2017 there were around 1,300 young people active in the initiative, enabling Unilever to reach over 115,000 new retail outlets.
Pollydut is helping Unilever Bangladesh to grow faster and is now contributing 5.5% of annual revenue. In turn it is helping participants in the Pollydut initiative to enjoy a better livelihood as a result of the commission that they are now earning from the sale of Unilever products.
Photos by Colin Crawley/ Save the Children