The report outlines Unilever’s goal not only to respect Human Rights but to actively advance them across all areas of its business. It documents areas where the company has taken significant steps forward, and assesses some of the challenges ahead.
Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever said: “Business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, upheld and advanced. People are our greatest asset, and empowering them across our supply chain is not only the right thing to do, but also ensures a sustainable future for the business.
“As we look ahead to the agreement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September and to the prospect of a global climate agreement in Paris at the end of the year, it is a fitting time to open an honest discussion about human rights.
“The effects of climate change threaten us all, with expected impacts hitting the poorest people and communities the hardest. They are often also those most at risk from negative human rights impacts. It is no longer enough for business to merely respect human rights. Our role must be far more active to ensure we succeed in our commitment.”
In 2014, Unilever formalised its commitment to respecting human rights as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan [USLP], the company’s blueprint for sustainable and responsible business. Part of that commitment was to report publically on human rights.
Unilever became the first company to adopt the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework; the world’s first comprehensive guidance for businesses to report on how they are implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Unilever is now the first company to produce a detailed, stand-alone report using the Framework.
Marcela Manubens, Global Vice President, Social Impact, Unilever said: “Our ambition is to embed the promotion of human rights into every function, every role, and every corner of our organization.
“We have 172 000 employees, 76 000 suppliers and sales in more than 190 countries across the globe, with varying cultural norms and socio-economic challenges. We will know that we have been successful when all of these 172 000 people around the world understand what this agenda means in their job, and are empowered into action. We have a long way to go and we cannot do this alone - but being honest about the challenge we face is crucial to making progress.”
The report highlights key areas of progress, including Unilever’s work to empower women, its progress in the fight against sexual harassment, and addressing health and safety issues across the supply chain.
It also describes key areas of focus for the future, which include addressing human rights issues beyond first-tier suppliers, working conditions for migrant labour, and continuing to collaborate with other organisations in order to influence systemic change.
Looking ahead, Unilever is committed to building frameworks for improved data collection, verification and analysis, which will feed into the company’s future reports.
Unilever’s key progress on human rights issues:- We endorsed the women’s empowerment principles. As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (2013) we have set out our commitment to empower 5 million women by 2020.
- We launched our responsible sourcing policy (2014), embedding our commitment to conduct business with integrity, openness and respect for human rights and core labour principles.
- Safety is integral to Unilever’s operations and we’ve achieved our target of halving the number of accidents in our factories and offices since 2008.
- We are committed to a transparent and accountable approach to addressing human rights issues across the business. That’s why we invited Oxfam to research our Vietnamese operations in 2013, to help us better understand how to implement the UN Guiding Principles. We be publishing a progress update later this year.
- We have zero tolerance of forced labour and are conducting legal reviews of The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 to assess the effectiveness of our processes.
- We’re strengthening our training programmes on prevention of human trafficking for employees, suppliers & distributors, and are establishing reporting mechanisms.