Enhancing entrepreneurial & life skills through our brands
We’re harnessing the power of our brands to empower women and build their skills.
Building on our brand connections to empower women
Our brands play a huge part in delivering our overall business commitment to making sustainable living commonplace. And given that over 70% of our consumers are women, we see a great opportunity to harness our brands to help achieve one of the strongest themes of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan – empowering women by challenging gender norms, building skills, and enabling everyone to unlock their full potential.
Of the people who buy our products are women
Many of our brands are empowering and enabling women every day. Our Beauty and Personal Care and Home Care brands have developed sustainable living purposes around enabling access to skills and training, building confidence and helping to recognise the fact that unpaid domestic work is disproportionately done by women − and that helping reduce and redistribute the burden of household chores can unlock women’s time.
And, crucially, we do not want our brands to perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes about women – or men. Our #Unstereotype initiative is challenging us, and our marketing agencies, to portray men and women positively and progressively, and to avoid gender stereotypes. Our expansion of #Unstereotype – and our work in mobilising other businesses in this area – is described in Challenging harmful gender norms.
Empowering women is good for our business
We're building on the connection our brands have with women, on the reach and scale of our business, and on collaborations with a range of partners, through projects and initiatives that enable women to increase their skills and create new opportunities.
We believe that empowered women will help build stronger economies and fairer societies, which will be good for our business – and we want women to trust our brands to support them on their journey.
Dove's mission to increase confidence
Body confidence and self-esteem matter: our research shows they can have an impact on the decisions people take and the way they act. Our Dove Global Beauty and Confidence report found that 5 in 10 women and 7 in 10 girls have not been assertive in their opinion or stuck to a decision, in part because of self-esteem about their looks.
Young people in 142 countries reached via Dove Self-Esteem Project
Our Dove Self-Esteem Project helps young girls build body confidence and strengthen their self-worth. We’ve helped over 60 million young people across 142 countries with self-esteem education over 2005–2019. And we’re aiming to reach 250 million by 2030.
As part of this, Dove's partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) has created a programme called Free Being Me, which helps boost body confidence and support children and young people to advocate body confidence issues in their community.
In 2019, we formed a partnership with UNICEF in three of our markets to promote body confidence as part of life skills education, working with WAGGGS and Women Deliver to advocate on body image issues.
Read more in Building body confidence & self-esteem.
TRESemmé: making presence count
Our TRESemmé haircare brand has investigated the impact of presence and how it can help women succeed.
What is 'presence' − and why does it matter? For TRESemmé, presence is ‘the energy you exude when you put your best, most authentic self forward in how you look, speak and act’. In 2018, TRESemmé commissioned research involving more than 5,500 women aged 18−35 across Brazil, the UK and the US with the aim of defining, measuring and understanding the impact of presence on women’s lives.
The research was conducted in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and global research experts Edelman Intelligence. It explored the barriers that limit women's presence – as well as the drivers that enable and empower women to make their presence count in the moments that matter most. Among other findings, 85% of women surveyed said their presence makes them feel they can achieve more things and progress further in daily life.
In response to these findings, and in partnership with ICRW, TRESemmé created The Presence MasterClass™, which can be accessed via www.tresemme.com, where there are also stories from graduates of the course. It’s a free seven-part MasterClass designed to help women succeed in their lives, not just with their hair, and aims to equip women with the tools to look their best, and to speak, act and engage in life with a true sense of presence.
The Presence MasterClass™ first launched in the UK in May 2019, and now operates in the US and Brazil. Results from the UK showed an average increase in presence of 39% after the programme was completed. Among other things women described the impact as ‘transformational’ and ‘lifechanging’, and said they felt much more prepared for their upcoming career-defining moments.
Fair & Lovely: connecting women to opportunity
Full access to career guidance, education and skills that boost employability – these are all essential to empowering women. That's especially true where socio-cultural, infrastructural or economic barriers stand in women's way – barriers such as gender stereotyping, safety concerns about studying outside the home, or harmful norms about household responsibilities.
Our Fair & Lovely Career Foundation was set up in 2003 to bring to life the brand's mission to help women secure a better future through education. In 2017 it launched a mobile career and education platform to expand its reach.
Fair & Lovely Career Foundation: impact at scale
Career guidance. High-quality education. They're vital elements to building a career − but in many places, cultural barriers mean they are not readily available to women.
The Fair & Lovely Career Foundation's mobile platform aims to change that. Launched in January 2017, it offers a curated selection of courses and resources on a mobile-friendly, online platform. The courses are chosen from well-regarded, high-quality digital education providers such as edX.org (founded by Harvard and MIT), the IT skills training firm, NIIT Limited, and English Edge, an English-language training specialist.
By the end of 2019, over one million people had registered to access skills and training through the platform, including 600,000 women, with 350,000 career tests already completed.
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal
Exploring a different future
Our Sunsilk brand also understands the critical importance of education for girls' futures.
It has conducted research and developed programmes that will push the agenda for girls' education. Its aim is to help girls gain the vision, support, skills and confidence needed to deviate from social limitations. Sunsilk calls this ambition 'stretching horizons'.
Potential increase in GDP if girls completed a further level of education
There are obvious benefits for girls who can realise new possibilities – and research shows that society gains, too. An analysis of ‘the girl effect’ in 14 countries found that if girls complete their next level of education – for example, if students who might otherwise leave at primary level advance to and complete secondary education – this could lead to productivity gains equivalent to 68% of annual GDP.
Sunsilk: stretching horizons
Adverse social norms mean girls often find themselves with fewer educational opportunities than boys. An empowered girl, though, is a force for good in households, communities and the economy – and will see lifelong benefits for herself.
Our Sunsilk brand is seeking to open up possibilities for young women through the idea of ‘horizon stretching’ – showing them that they can overcome limiting norms in order to increase their personal potential to develop strengths, exercise agency and achieve goals. In partnership with the global NGO, Girl Rising, Sunsilk has developed the Explore More Possibilities educational programme, which encourages girls to imagine a new way forward through education materials aimed at inspiring them in the classroom.
Since 2018, the programme has launched in Thailand, Pakistan, Argentina, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Sunsilk also worked with non-profit Plano de Menina to co-create the #JuntasArrasamos (#TogetherWeRock) programme in Brazil in 2017. This digital and face-to-face programme covers topics such as personal development, self-esteem and personal finance, and profiles aspirational role models as well as offering a support network. By 2019 the app had reached more than 350,000 girls.
The programmes are reinforced by research conducted by Sunsilk in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). In September 2019 Sunsilk launched Opening Up Possibilities for Girls: A report on supporting young women on the journey to new horizons, ahead of International Day of the Girl. The paper examines why girls and young women need support in their adolescent years to break free from societal norms.
And the benefits for women are clear. With gains in education, girls are more likely to secure employment and become financially independent. Completing one more year of school beyond the national average can boost a girl’s eventual wages by 10–20%.
The skills to shine
A lack of skills and confidence is also holding back young people. Even though more young people are going into tertiary education than ever before, they’re three times more likely to face unemployment than previous generations.
This trend is particularly acute in developing countries, home to 85% of the world’s youth population – two-thirds of whom do not have a formal job.
In response, in 2015 our Radiant laundry brand launched its Academies of Shine in all its key markets. The Academies aim to upskill women and men and give them the confidence to shine.
Radiant, Rin, Brilhante, Omo & Surf
Radiant is also known as Rin, Brilhante, Omo and Surf, giving rise to programmes such as the Rin Career Ready Academy in India and Bangladesh, Escola Brilhante in Brazil, Omo Bright Future Academy in Thailand and the Surf School of Shine in South Africa. Each is tailored to the specific needs and culture of the country.
Through teaching livelihood skills, the Academies bring to life Radiant’s brand purpose of fostering social mobility: helping progress-seekers improve their employability and increase their income potential through the right skills, confidence and bright clothes. And they support the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Quality Education, particularly SDG 4.4 which seeks to increase the numbers of young people and adults who have relevant skills (including technical and vocational skills) for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
Academies of Shine
In Brazil, our Brilhante laundry brand found that 70% of women want to start their own business – as it’s seen as one of the best chances for women to provide for their children and pay for their education. But we also learnt that only 7% of women feel they have the confidence and skills to do so.
Fear of failure is a major cause of this hesitation. To combat this, we set up Escola Brilhante (The Academy of Shine), an online women's entrepreneurship programme which includes a micro-finance helpline. Women can learn business skills and build their confidence in as little as five minutes a day through free courses. By 2018, Escola Brilhante had supported over 140,000 women. After the programme, 98% say they will start their own business – up from 74% before they started.
In India, the Rin Career Ready Academy connects new joiners with alumni, giving joiners the chance to practise English, be mentored or take part in career fairs. In rural areas, we tackled the lack of access to technology by delivering training through an interactive voice recorder that’s available via any feature phone. And to make the experience a more social one, we created a mobile conferencing facility so students can practise English by speaking to other participants and a teacher.
In Thailand, professions such as accountancy, engineering or medical services typically require advanced English-speaking skills. So Omo’s Bright Future Academy makes short, fun English-language modules, which are accessible to aspiring Thais through YouTube and Facebook. Longer, in-depth modules are available on DVD, and are sold with packs of Omo. And we work with supermarket Tesco each year during back-to-school weeks to promote the programme in-store.
This is not only proving good for the people who enrol in the training, it’s good for business too. Radiant remains our fastest-growing laundry brand in very competitive markets. And we’ve seen particularly strong sales in the countries where the Academies are most advanced – Brazil, India and Thailand. In India, the number of people who see Rin as trustworthy is up by 19%, while in Brazil 90% would recommend Brilhante to others.
This work contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goal