Non-renewables sourcing

By working with our suppliers and the extraction industry on traceability and standards for responsible sourcing, we aim to increase our positive social impacts while building trust in our brands' supply chains.

Non renewable sourcing

Increasing transparency, greater collective action

Many of the raw materials we use each year to make our products are classified as non-renewable. Around 6 million tonnes of these originate from minerals or metals extracted from the earth.

However, the extraction and processing of minerals are sometimes associated with human rights issues. Our Responsible Sourcing Policy guides us in managing our risks to ensure we have supply chains that consumers can trust. We follow a three-pronged approach to sourcing these non-renewable materials. We are:

  • developing traceability in our supply chain down to individual extraction sites
  • working with industry to co-create standards for responsible extraction, and
  • making a positive impact on the livelihoods of those who work in the non-renewables supply chain.

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy (PDF | 9MB) (RSP) embodies our commitment to conduct business with integrity, openness and respect for universal human rights and core labour principles.

The RSP sets mandatory requirements on human and labour rights for suppliers who have a business relationship with Unilever. It sets out our 12 Fundamental Principles and defines the Mandatory Requirements that suppliers must achieve to do business with Unilever.

As we are not a major player in the area of mineral extraction, our approach has been to work with suppliers and other industry players to collectively drive responsible sourcing of these materials.

In 2013, we embarked on a programme to bring about transparency in our supply chain by tracing materials back to their extraction sites, and understanding the challenges, labour standards and working condition at these sites. We followed this with detailed sessions with our suppliers, holding workshops in India in 2014 and China in 2015. This resulted in the Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE), which we co-created in 2015 by working closely with the NGO Solidaridad and supplier and industry partners.

The Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE)

CORE offers a globally acceptable and credible assurance to buyers and other stakeholders that industrial minerals are extracted in a responsible way.

It is independently audited and helps suppliers make continual improvements towards five objectives.

  • Governance and legality: enhance compliance with legal requirements and improve governance.
  • Labour and employment: improve working conditions and ensure labour rights are protected.
  • Occupational health, safety and security: provide safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Environment and ecosystem: avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the environment.
  • Community and stakeholders: respect the rights and aspirations of affected communities.

Increasing our reach through CORE

Where can we have most impact - on society and on our business - and how can we achieve it? These are the questions that we asked ourselves, and our partners, when we developed and launched CORE following two years of close collaboration with our suppliers and the extraction industry.

Around half the non-renewables we buy originate in India and China. Those countries were also identified as places where we had the greatest opportunities both to manage our supply chain risk and build trust and to improve the livelihoods of workers. As a result, we began to roll out CORE with suppliers in India and China in 2016, using assessments at extraction sites to identify where its standards are not being met and working with suppliers to make the necessary improvements.

By the end of 2018, around 70% of our volumes sourced in India and China came from suppliers verified as complying with CORE. And thanks to the support of around 30 suppliers operating over 50 sites, this has meant improvements in areas such as compliance with regulations and ensuring that drinking water, sanitation facilities, rest shelters, adequate personal protective equipment and access to healthcare are all provided to workers.

While we are still at an early stage, there are encouraging signs that CORE is enabling positive social impacts. In the salt industry in India, for example, where it is not uncommon for workers to be exposed to extremely high temperatures, lack of sanitation facilities and access to water, CORE enabled suppliers to improve working conditions and strengthen workers’ grievance mechanisms to highlight possible issues. So far, sanitation facilities have been built and access to water has been improved at around 40 sites.

Previously we used to travel long distances to use the toilet. Sometimes, we control our bladder and tend to not drink sufficient water, despite the scorching heat, due to lack of toilets. Now with the toilets built, I find it very convenient and I am able to work comfortably.

Salt pan worker, India

Also in India, in Gujarat and Rajasthan our suppliers are taking the opportunity to support local communities by providing water pumped from their mines for non-drinking use.