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Our Commitment for Racial Justice: A Progress Update

An illustration of many people.

One of the key pillars of our sustainable business strategy, the Unilever Compass, is to contribute to a fairer, more socially inclusive world. One of the ways we do this is by promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion.

At Unilever, we reject completely and repudiate unequivocally any form of racism, intolerance, or violence. We know we have a responsibility to help create systemic change, and have been making progress against the commitments we shared last summer in response to the nation-wide racial justice movement.

We know we must do more both within and outside the Unilever ecosystem to use our scale for good and help tackle the root causes of social injustice. Below are the steps we’ve taken so far, and a glimpse at what comes next on our racial justice journey.

Financial support for activists and organizations fighting for social justice

Over the last year, Unilever U.S. and its brands have provided financial support for activists and organizations fighting for social justice and racial equality. We have collectively donated more than $8.3 million since June 2020.

Getting our house in order: Assessing corporate practices for internal progress

Unilever aims to achieve an equitable and inclusive culture in our workplaces by eliminating any bias and discrimination in our practices and policies, and accelerating diverse representation at all levels of the organization.

Measurement is a crucial tool to gauge and promote progress, and keeps us accountable in ensuring our workforce reflects the communities we serve. In the spirit of transparency, we publicly disclosed the diversity numbers for our corporate workforce in the United States in June of 2020, and we are sharing an update this year:

  • 36% of our U.S. Leadership Team identify as people of color. 18% identify as Black.
  • 31% of our U.S. corporate employees identify as people of color. Just over 8% identify as Black.

Since our last update, we have seen a slight increase in the representation of employees that identify as people of color and employees that identify as Black, but we acknowledge that there is much more work to be done.

Over the last year, we took some of the necessary steps in continuing to ensure we are building an inclusive workplace. We hosted events encouraging open, honest conversations on the struggles and triumphs of the Black community, including a Healing Circle for our Black employees. We held more than 35 company-wide unconscious bias and cultural competency training sessions on experiences of the Black, LatinX, LGBTQI+, and Muslim communities. This year, we will honor and observe Juneteenth as a company holiday.

As a next step, Unilever North America will join Seramount (formerly Working Mother Media) in their Pledge to Progress initiative. The initiative will examine how corporate America has succeeded in addressing racism in the workplace and what they need to do next. It will look to understand gaps between what leaders have pledged and what employees experience and then propose actionable solutions to close this gap.

Simultaneously, Unilever is conducting an equity and culture assessment. As part of this, we will examine our hiring process thoroughly, including candidate sourcing, diverse candidate slates, and diverse interview panels. From a talent-management perspective, we will examine talent selection, leadership development, barriers to success, and participation in mentorship and sponsorship programs. The diagnostic will help us understand where we are on our journey and will inform our path forward.

We know that true, enduring progress does not happen overnight, but we are working to ensure that our recruiting, hiring, and development practices are fair and equitable.

Increased spending with diverse suppliers

We know we can also influence change by increasing our work with diverse suppliers. This will help ensure that our work to drive diversity, equity and inclusion will extend beyond our people and our operations. Last year, Unilever North America pledged to increase our spending with diverse suppliers, and we are proud to share that from 2019 to 2020, we increased our spend by 16.7% in the U.S. and Canada.

In January 2021, Unilever announced that globally we will spend €2 billion annually with diverse suppliers by 2025. These suppliers will be businesses owned and managed by women, under-represented racial and ethnic groups, veterans, people with disabilities and the LGBTQI+ community. We will also support these businesses with a new Supplier Development Program that will provide access to skills and networking opportunities.

Advocacy for legislative action

Business leaders committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in their workplace have an obligation to promote more equitable and inclusive policies in the communities they serve and where their employees live. That’s why Unilever has advocated for fair and safe access to voting for the past year with several initiatives with partners like Civic Alliance, I’m the Vote, and Business for America.

Unilever has also joined Dove and its partners to expand the CROWN Coalition, which pledges to take tangible steps toward tackling the root cause of social injustice by amending existing laws or creating new ones to fight against systemic racism.

Since 2019, The CROWN Coalition cofounded by our Dove brand has led work on the CROWN Act, which prohibits race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and public schools. The CROWN Act is now law in 11 states and 22 municipalities, and has been introduced in 32 additional states, and passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020.

Additionally, the CROWN Coalition has expanded the work it is doing to advocate for anti-discrimination legislation by lending its support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. To sign the petition, visit CROWNCoalition.com.

Representation in advertising

We know that representation matters, and for years we have been working to include more diverse representation in advertising through our Unstereotype initiative. In January 2021, we committed to increasing the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups globally, both on screen and behind the camera. We will help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people.

One example of this commitment in action is that Unilever U.S. announced its role as an official sponsor of Bid Black, a free curated database of Black creative talent and filmmakers, to help provide more opportunities for under-represented communities and create advertising that authentically represents everyone.

As a next step, we are building on the training already available to Unilever brand marketers on representation in advertising. We will be rolling out trainings specific to representing several groups, including Black, Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQI+.

Much more to do

While we’re proud of the steps we’ve taken historically and in the past year in working toward racial justice, we know there is much work to be done.

We recognize that making real change to address systemic racism will require a long-term, multi-faceted approach, and we are committed to doing the work. We need collective action between corporations, citizens, and government to bring about true change, and we will continue working toward a fairer, more inclusive society both within and outside of the Unilever ecosystem.