Implementing our approach

We aim to advance human rights in our extended supply chain, develop a continuous improvement roadmap and move towards best practice.

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy

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

Launched in April 2014, the policy sets mandatory requirements on human and labour rights in business relationships with Unilever. It defines a ‘continuous improvement ladder’ that we are using to engage suppliers in progressively working towards achieving leading practices.

We aim to ensure our suppliers collaborate, understand and embrace the criteria in the Policy, and move up the continuous improvement ladder. Our ambition is to promote adherence to higher standards in all the industries in which we operate.

Working to improve supply chain practices

We recognise that the success of our Responsible Sourcing Policy depends on the ability of suppliers to translate its requirements into action. Over 2014-2015, we held events to further our suppliers’ understanding of our policy in China, Brazil, Vietnam, India and Costa Rica. These events have helped over 700 supplier personnel to build skills and develop capabilities in human rights, wages, working hours, management systems, fire safety, the environment, and other issues.

We believe that by working with and supporting our suppliers and their workers to address these challenges, we can create socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains. We also believe that national governments, and civil society including trade unions and other businesses, have a vital role to play in improving labour and other conditions.

For example, we are working with our hazelnut suppliers in Turkey to share best practice in fair labour conditions in our hazelnut supply chain. We are sharing success stories and building replicable models which helps to ensure that child labour is not used and that workers, particularly migrant workers, have better working and living conditions.

Implementing our new Responsible Sourcing Policy

We are initially focusing on our key ‘Partner to Win’ suppliers (around 180 suppliers). Having worked with them, most have now achieved what the RSP terms ‘Mandatory Practice’. We are aiming to move to ‘Good Practice’ by the end of 2016.

The remainder of our strategic partners comprise approximately 1,000 suppliers, who cover up to 6,000 sites, 80% of our production material spend and 50% of our services and indirect materials spend. Our intention is that from March 2016 to the end of 2017, they progress from Mandatory to Good Practice.

Our RSP supersedes and replaces the previous Supplier Code. However, our existing supplier compliance programme will continue to run in parallel with the new RSP roll-out covering all our raw and packaging material suppliers.

We strive for continuous improvement with all suppliers.

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign

Our new RSP was integral to improving our score in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard. Behind the Brands assesses the agricultural sourcing policies of the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies. Its scorecard is updated twice a year and looks at seven themes: climate change, land rights, workers, transparency, farmers, women and water.

Unilever was ranked the leader of the scorecard published in March 2015, which made particular mention of our efforts on workers’ rights, stating that Unilever, “Moved ahead after publishing new commitments, including a Responsible Sourcing Policy that sets out new guidelines and requirements for its suppliers based on continuous improvement”.

We also improved our scores for climate change, land rights, workers and transparency, and retained the leading score for farmers.

Pier Luigi Sigismondi, our former Chief Supply Chain Officer, explains: “Our employees are focused on delivering the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and work with many partners to push standards and boundaries where necessary. I am delighted this has been recognised by Oxfam. However, we are under no illusion about the scale of the challenge that remains, and recognise where improvements can be made. One area of focus is on upskilling women in our supply chain. We will continue to drive change across our business and industry, and call on others to do the same."

Internationally recognised standards

A number of Fundamental Principles underline our RSP. These are based on internationally recognised standards. We endorse the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and are embedding them throughout our operations.

We base our Human Rights commitment on the International Bill of Human Rights consisting of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Labour Organisation’s fundamental conventions on Rights at Work. We also support the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The fundamental principles of our Responsible Sourcing Policy

Business is conducted lawfully & with integrity

This addresses issues of bribery, conflicts of interest, gifts, hospitality and entertainment, competition and competitor information, and financial records. It also addresses money laundering and insider trading, safeguarding information and property, product quality and responsible innovation, compliance with laws, and reporting concerns and non-retaliation.

Work is conducted on the basis of freely agreed & documented terms of employment

Policies are adopted and adhered to that respect workers - permanent and casual. At a minimum, they safeguard their rights under their employment contract, local, national labour and social security laws and regulations, and applicable collective agreements.

All workers are treated equally & with respect & dignity

All workers are treated with respect and dignity. No worker is subject to any physical, sexual, psychological, verbal harassment, abuse or other form of intimidation. There is no discrimination in employment, including hiring, compensation, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement. Discrimination based on caste, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, health, disability or pregnancy is prevented. In particular, attention is paid to the rights of workers most vulnerable to discrimination.

Work is conducted on a voluntary basis

Forced labour, whether in the form of indentured labour, bonded labour or other forms, is not acceptable. Mental and physical coercion, slavery and human trafficking are prohibited.

All workers are of an appropriate age

Under no circumstances will a supplier employ workers under the age of 15, or under the minimum age for work or mandatory schooling as specified by the local law, whichever is higher. When young workers are employed, they must not do work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous or harmful, or that interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school.

All workers are paid fair wages

Workers are provided with a total compensation package. This includes wages, overtime pay, benefits and paid leave. The package meets or exceeds the legal minimum standards or appropriate prevailing industry standards, whichever is higher. Compensation terms established by legally binding collective bargaining agreements are implemented and adhered to.

Working hours for all workers are reasonable

Workers are not required to work more than the regular and overtime hours allowed by the law of the country where the workers are employed. All overtime work by workers is on a voluntary basis.

All workers are free to exercise their right to form &/or join trade unions or to refrain from doing so & to bargain collectively

The rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining are recognised and respected. Workers are not intimidated or harassed in the exercise of their right to join or refrain from joining any organisation.

Workers’ health & safety are protected at work

A healthy and safe workplace is provided to prevent accidents and injury arising out of, linked with, or occurring in the course of work or as a result of the employer’s operations.

Workers have access to fair procedures & remedies

Workers are provided with transparent, fair and confidential procedures that result in swift, unbiased and fair resolution of difficulties which may arise as part of their working relationship.

Land rights of communities, including indigenous peoples, will be protected & promoted

The rights and title to property and land of the individual, indigenous people and local communities are respected. All negotiations with regard to their property or land, including the use of and transfers of it, adhere to the principles of free, prior and informed consent, contract transparency and disclosure.

Business is conducted in a manner which embraces sustainability & reduces environmental impact

Operations, sourcing, manufacture, distribution of products and the supply of services are conducted with the aim to protect and preserve the environment.

Meeting our benchmarks for responsible sourcing

Our RSP contains the benchmarks expected of our suppliers relating to all the Policy’s Fundamental Principles. We aim to review and update these benchmarks on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to set the benchmark that others in the industry will aspire to.

For more details on our Continuous Improvement Benchmarks, see the Responsible Sourcing Policy - April 2014 (PDF | 5MB).

We expect our suppliers and their employees or contractors to report actual or suspected breaches of our RSP. Unilever will investigate any reported non-conformity made in good faith and discuss findings with the supplier. If remediation is required, the supplier will be expected to inform Unilever and implement a corrective action plan and timeline to effectively and promptly resolve the failure.

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