CEO Jope pushed its suppliers to pay living wage © Riccardo Savi/Getty Images
CEO Jope pushed its suppliers to pay living wage © Riccardo Savi/Getty Images

Unilever to demand all suppliers pay a living wage

21 January 2021

Unilever has pledged to ensure its suppliers pay all employees a living wage by 2030. 

The consumer goods giant said it planned to use “purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy” to “create systemic change and global adoption of living wage practices”.

The commitment was announced as part of measures to support a more “equitable and inclusive” society. 

Earning a living wage would ensure people working throughout the Unilever supply chain could afford “a decent standard of living” and would cover basic needs such as “food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transportation, clothing; and includes a provision for unexpected events”, the firm said.

“In addition, when people earn a living wage or income, there is a direct benefit to the economy, as it stimulates consumer spending, aids job creation, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover and improves job productivity and quality – overall creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth,” it said. 

The firm also announced it would spend €2bn annually with diverse suppliers by 2025. Unilever is aiming to reach small and medium-sized businesses owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and LGBTQI+. 

“In addition to our spend, we will support these businesses with a new supplier development programme that will provide access to skills, financing and networking opportunities. We will promote supplier diversity throughout our value chain, encouraging our suppliers to have diversity amongst their respective partners,” Unilever said.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, did not confirm if the measures would extend beyond Unilever’s first tier suppliers.

He said: “We have about 60,000 suppliers who supply Unilever with products and services. We already make sure that everyone directly on our payroll has a fair living wage and what we will do is require all of those suppliers to make sure they are paying their people properly for the work that they do that relates to supplying Unilever. We’re quite familiar with this. We do audit and check. We’ve got 10 years to get this in place but that’s the plan.” 

Jope was also quizzed on Brexit regulations after trade bodies warned that new rules were impacting food supplies.

“There was a day or two of holdups at some of the border ports and there’s still some work that needs doing on the paperwork to support the movement of food products in and out of particularly Ireland. But overall, it’s going more smoothly than we might have feared,” he said.

“I think from a logistics, from a friction perspective, the great force of business will figure out how to get through these teething problems.”

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