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Raise living standards

Strategy and goals

In a fair and inclusive society, we believe people should be paid at least a living wage or income – and entrepreneurs should get the support they need to build businesses that benefit them and their communities.

We want to help improve people's living standards

Of course that means ensuring that our own employees are paid a living wage. But it also means looking beyond our business, to the workers and small business owners who provide our goods and services and ensuring that they enjoy a decent standard of living and have the right support to grow their business – and ours.

A man in a hard hat and high visibility waistcoat studies a dashboard in a factory

Ensuring that people earn at least a living wage or income is a critical step towards building a more equitable world. It allows workers to participate fully in their communities, and helps them break the cycle of poverty. And when people earn a living wage, there’s a direct benefit to the economy, as it stimulates consumer spending, helps small businesses, decreases employee turnover and improves job productivity and quality.

An illustration of a farmer using a tablet in a field

The Case for Living Wages

Paying a living wage is one of the most powerful ways to lift people out of poverty, start to tackle inequality and realise human rights. In 2022 we supported Business Fights Poverty, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Shift to publish The Case for Living Wages.

This research provides a new perspective on what the payment of living wages offers to companies, demonstrating that they generate a wealth of benefits to workers, businesses and society.

Raising living standards, sharing value fairly

Raising living standards plays a key role in our commitment to respect human rights . And while fair wages and compensation are embedded in our comprehensive framework of codes and policies, we want to go further by working with others to promote change and create living wage economies.

It’s part of the drive for equity and fair value that underpins the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind’. It’s a natural next step for a business like Unilever, which is committed to equity, everywhere we operate.

And it's a step that makes commercial sense – because more prosperous, more resilient societies are better places for a business like ours to thrive. Research shows that investing in living wages results in increased worker productivity and reduced turnover of workers, more resilient value chains and growth in consumer markets.

We’ve set clear goals to drive equity

As part of our Unilever Compass , we've set ourselves clear goals that will help us help drive global equity through fair wages and raised living standards.

Improving living standards for low-paid workers

Farmers in Asia sort through their crop

By the end of 2020, we'd met our commitment to pay all our direct employees a living wage. Now we want to extend this to all the workers who directly provide us with goods and services.

We’re taking a phased approach to implementing our living wage commitment, focusing on the most vulnerable workers in manufacturing and agriculture and mapping countries and commodities to understand gaps between minimum and living wages. At the end of 2022 we also introduced our Responsible Partner Policy (PDF 4.45 MB) (RPP) which contains 17 Fundamental Principles embodying our commitment to responsible, transparent and sustainable business. The RPP includes the requirement for suppliers to pay living wages, a requirement that we’ll introduce in stages across different portfolios.

Supporting our retail partners to grow

Our business relies on millions of small and medium-sized enterprises to bring our products to consumers. At the same time, this network of retailers is one of the most important ways we can achieve our ambitions for raising living standards and contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive society. By supporting them to grow, we are confident these SMEs will, in turn, offer more economic opportunities within their communities, for current and future employees, and contribute to local economic growth.

A hand tapping a card on a payment terminal held by a shopkeeper

Helping businesses in our retail value chain harness the benefits of digitalisation is central to our Unilever Compass – where we’ve made a strategic choice to develop more e-business-to-business (e-B2B) platforms. Bringing retailers into the digital economy helps them grow their businesses through increased sales, become more resilient and earn a better income.

We’re helping more smaller stores gain access to digital commerce platforms so they can engage with Unilever and our distributors. We’re also building on our long-standing programmes to promote skills training and empower entrepreneurs, whether in small stores and kiosks, or among the sales agents who are crucial to our ‘last-mile distribution’ models, which bring our products to hard-to-reach consumers, often in areas where there is limited retail infrastructure.

Our network of partnerships is key to all this work, including with the CEO Partnership for Economic Inclusion, the Better Than Cash Alliance, Mastercard, AXA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Women’s World Banking and others.

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