The outcry of suffering and anger we’ve seen expressed through the protests in cities across the U.S. has consumed me these past several days. The senseless killing of George Floyd is unacceptable, as was each of the many similar incidents that have happened in this country for far too long. I continue to grapple with how such atrocities can still occur in our country today.
I reject completely and repudiate unequivocally any form of racism, intolerance or violence and Unilever is committed to helping eradicate such hateful acts in our society once and for all. These forms of inequality can no longer be tolerated and are directly contrary to Unilever’s values, our culture and our commitment to inclusion and diversity.
This isn’t only a race issue; it’s a human rights issue in our country and globally.
Still, for me and I hope for you, America remains the torchbearer of democracy for the world. Many years ago, I decided to emigrate to the U.S. because I believed this country offered the promise of a better future and life for all. Despite everything that needs to change and all the tribulations we are experiencing these days, I still firmly believe that.
The majority of Americans are good people. They espouse strong values of respect for human rights, fairness and justice. The outpouring of support I saw from our employees, our partners and the community during our recent United for America campaign only reaffirms my faith in humanity in general and in this country in particular.
Despite my beliefs, I am aware that I do not have the same experience as other people of color living in our country. I know that intolerance and bias are real, as is the often-unseen institutional racism that limits the access and opportunities for people of color in our society.
The impact of racism is intensified in the challenging times we find ourselves today. Between the public health and economic impact of COVID-19 and the social and political unrest that continues to divide our country, I’m sure many of you have never felt more isolated and disconnected from your fellow citizens. What is needed now more than ever is a movement of unity.
To be successful in fixing what’s wrong and creating a better future, we need collective action between corporations, citizens and government. The burden to end institutionalized racism cannot fall only on Black and African American communities. Allies are needed now more than ever.
Unilever will assume our responsibility to help create systemic change and will stand with and for the Black and African American community.
Many of our brands have a rich history of championing and supporting Black communities. For years, Ben & Jerry’s has been at the forefront of fighting for social justice, in particular criminal justice reform and voting access for the African American community. Dove has supported anti-racism efforts through its work with the CROWN Coalition and legislation it has helped pass in several states to protect against hair discrimination. SheaMoisture has a strong commitment to women of color entrepreneurs through its partnership with the New Voices Fund, which included a $20 million contribution from Unilever with the acquisition of Sundial Brands.
We are proud of the legacy work of these brands. Yet, we must do more both within and outside the Unilever ecosystem to use our economic power for good and help tackle the root causes of social injustice. We will start with five focus areas:
- $1 million+ pledged to organizations and activists working for social justice and racial equality. This includes commitments from Unilever and our brands such as SheaMoisture, AXE, TAZO, Seventh Generation, Degree and Vaseline
- Increasing our spend with diverse suppliers
- Ensuring the diversity of our workforce fully reflects the communities we serve
- Upholding a zero-tolerance policy on intolerance – both among Unilever employees and the suppliers, customers and partners that work with us
- Adding our voice and influence to advocate for safe and fair access to voting this November
In the coming weeks, we will share more specific details on our commitments. This is only the beginning.
I ask you to join me, and Unilever, on this journey as we work together to eradicate intolerance and injustice and create a better future. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but we must remain committed to this most important of causes.