Our employees are essential to our business success and to achieving the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets. It is in our interest to ensure that all 171,000 of them are healthy, motivated and committed.
Complementing our targets are three important areas which we keep under regular review - diversity, human and labour rights and training.
Unilever is an extremely diverse organisation in terms of its ethnic and cultural make-up. The Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) comprises managers from five countries and the top 100 executives come from over 20.
However, our gender mix is not what we want it to be. Although we have three female Non-Executive Directors on the Board, there is only one woman on the ULE.
We are tackling the issue through a diversity board chaired by the CEO and by a requirement that the shortlist for each senior job should contain a woman. Since 2007, the proportion of women in senior positions has risen from 23% to 28%.
More than 50% of our graduate recruits are women. In principle, the pipeline is being filled, but our task is to ensure many more reach the top levels.
Human and labour rights
Unilever’s approach to human and labour rights is set out in our Code of Business Principles. We are signatories to the UN Global Compact, support the ILO conventions and are working to develop a more inclusive approach to human rights based on the Ruggie principles.
However, problems do occasionally surface. In the past three years we have dealt with concerns about contract labour in Pakistan, union recognition in India and allegations of the use of child labour in Madagascar (for vanilla). That such issues arise in a business of our scale and geographic spread is no surprise. The real test is that they are identified and escalated to top management so that they are resolved. The child labour accusation was dealt with swiftly and the labour issue in Pakistan was resolved via mediation through the OECD.
Unilever has a strong reputation for the quality of its management and workplace training. In 2011, 128,000 people were registered for the Unilever Learning Academy’s courses. Much of our training is now delivered online through over 7,600 training modules. For example, in 2011 over 95% of our managers completed the first of a new set of modules on our Code of Business Principles.
A particular challenge for 2012 and beyond is to build our understanding and capability on sustainability. Already over 6,000 people have completed a Unilever Sustainable Living Plan e-module. In future we will embed sustainability into our core training for business functions.