Estimates suggest this could impact over a million people in 10 years, helping to reduce the social inequalities gap that is said to have only widened since Covid. A living wage allows people to afford a decent standard of living covering a family’s basic needs — food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transportation, clothing as also a provision for unexpected events.
A living wage is higher than the minimum wage as defined by various countries, cities or regions. Unilever is working with Fair Wage Network to arrive at a living wage standard across countries.
In an exclusive interaction with TOI, Unilever’s chief HR officer Leena Nair said, “When we look around us and this is even more evident post-Covid, social inequality is a big issue. As a business that wants to be sustainable, we are announcing wide-ranging commitments and actions across three big areas — one, we want to raise living standards across our value chain, second is to create opportunities through inclusivity, and third is prepare people in the ‘Future of Work’.” Nair said the process will be audited and certified across the world.
In India, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) will support employees in the ecosystem, who are providing goods and services to the company, such as service providers, co-packers, carrying & forwarding agents (distribution network), and sales network. This would impact over 1.2 lakh people by 2030. The company will provide them with access to digital tools, financial inclusion and services, and public–private models that support social entrepreneurship, to help them grow their business and their income.
As more people rise to a living wage standard, it can have a direct benefit to the economy by spurring consumer spending. “It’s about creating a systemic change not just in Unilever, but across other businesses in various countries. We will work with our suppliers, other businesses, governments and NGOs — through purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy — to create systemic change and global adoption of living wage practices,” said Nair. “The hope is it will have a trickle effect and touch the lowest level in the value chain.”
Before making this commitment, Nair said Unilever had to ensure that the same is provided for in terms of the business model. The 52-billion-euro Unilever — which is present in beauty & personal care, home care and food & refreshments — is also pioneering new employment models and equipping 10 million young people with essential skills to prepare them for job opportunities, by 2030.
Pilots on new ways of working are being developed to offer security and flexibility. These include options such as flexible employment contracts with benefits such as pension plans, or offering time off work to study or re-train. Additionally, it also plans to help 5 million small and medium -sized enterprises in its retail value chain grow their business through access to skills, finance and technology, by 2025. Unilever has also committed to spend 2 billion euros annually with diverse suppliers, by 2025.
HUL executive director (HR) Anuradha Razdan said, “In India, we aim to positively impact women in the grassroots levels by hiring over 2,000 women in the shopfloor in factories. We are also working towards re-skilling and up-skilling over 12,000 blue-collar employees to make them future-fit.”
Besides, using the strength of its brands, and its position as the second-largest advertiser in the world, Unilever plans to increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on screen and behind the camera. “Businesses are seeing the need to lean in on this and to look after their most important asset, human capital. I have seen the mood and resonance to do something around people everywhere much more today as compared to say 5 years back,” said Nair.