Consumer giant Unilever has pledged all workers in its supply chain receive a live wage by 2030 as its boss warned that social inequality has worsened over the past year due to the pandemic.
The Ben & Jerry’s and Marmite manufacturer set out its wage pledge as part of a raft of social commitments aimed to improve conditions within its supply chain.
The group has invested billions of pounds into addressing sustainability and environmental concerns in recent years but it will now turn more of its attention towards social inequality.
Alan Jope, chief executive officer at Unilever, said: “The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality.
“The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent, and offers opportunities for everyone.
“We believe the actions we are committing to will make Unilever a better, stronger business; ready for the huge societal changes we are experiencing today – changes that will only accelerate.”
The company said it will ensure everyone who directly provides or delivers goods and services for Unilever will earn at least a living wage or income by 2030.
Leena Nair, chief people officer, told the PA news agency that it sees it biggest challenges in its supply chain in Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil and India.
The group said there are specific issues regarding social inequality in the production of tea and cocoa which it hopes it can help address.
“It has been really sad to see that social divides have grown globally this year we felt this action was pressing,” Ms Nair told PA.
“It is a systemic issue and will need the support of Government and NGOs (non-government organisations) but we are positive about the change that can take place here.”
In the UK, Unilever said it is improving flexibility for employees and within its supply chain.
It said the group has now expanded its U-Work programme to employ people who do not solely work for Unilever with monthly retainers as well as benefits such as pensions, healthcare, sick pay and holiday pay.
The group launched the scheme in a pilot in late 2019 and now has 220 employees on the programme after the expansion last year.
Globally, Unilever has also committed to spending two billion dollars (£1.46 billion) with suppliers owned and managed by people from under-represented groups by 2025 in a bid to improve diversity.
Gabriela Bucher, executive director at Oxfam International, said: “Unilever’s plan shows the kind of responsible action needed from the private sector that can have a great impact on tackling inequality, and help to build a world in which everyone has the power to thrive, not just survive.
“We welcome Unilever’s commitments for living wages and farmer incomes in the global supply chain, an important step in the right direction, and are proud to have been a partner of Unilever as it formed this ambitious new plan.”