Engaging with Stakeholders

Engaging with stakeholders is essential in building our reputation, developing long-term relationships and helping to understand stakeholder concerns and expectations. It informs our decision-making, strengthens our relationships and helps us deliver our commitments and succeed as a business.

Our approach

For Unilever, stakeholder management is of vital importance helping drive our ambitious Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We seek to actively engage with governments, intergovernmental organisations, regulators, customers, suppliers, investors, civil society organisations, academics and individual concerned citizens to create an environment that is supportive of solutions in the face of the big sustainability and health challenges the world faces.

To achieve our big goals such as help more than a billion people to improve their health and well-being, halving the environmental impact of our products across the value chain, to sourcing 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably, and enhancing the livelihoods of people across our value chain, we need to partner with a range of people and organisations that have a stake in our business.

How do we engage with our stakeholders?

The variety of our relationships means we engage in different ways, depending on the nature of the interest, the relevance to the business and the most practical way to meet stakeholders’ specific needs and expectations.

Through the Unilever Foundation we are partnering with five leading global organisations – Oxfam, PSI, Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme. The Foundation is dedicated to improving quality of life through the provision of hygiene, sanitation, access to clean drinking water, basic nutrition and enhancing self-esteem. By working together, we will be able to expand the delivery of life-saving solutions to drive systematic and scalable social change.

Our global business leadership are actively engaging with a variety of stakeholders and through a number of dedicated platforms such as the United Nations Global Compact, the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Our businesses at the country level are also externally active at several levels. They participate in research projects, surveys and symposia, and contribute to public policy and special interest group debates in areas such as safety and environmental impact, sustainable sourcing and nutrition.

Furthermore we have increased activities online, for example with the Unilever Sustainable Living Lab. The lab brought together a cross-section of people from governments, NGOs and businesses to discuss the themes of sustainable sourcing, production and distribution, consumer behaviour change, and waste and recycling. It attracted over 2,200 registrants from 77 countries and almost 4,000 comments were posted. The findings were shared in a summary report with participants including internal leaders for whom it provided valuable input to their own thinking.

Looking forward

Increasingly we will work with a range of selected groups which will help contribute to reaching the ambitious targets we have set in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We will be working together not only on tangible projects, but also to achieve systematic changes to tackle challenges in the area of, for example, climate change, waste and biofuels.

We will work in close cooperation via traditional routes, but are also looking into crowd-sourcing opportunities, integrating relevant stakeholders at early stages of decision-making at all levels. External engagement must be part and parcel of everyday business.

Finally we are shifting our traditional consumer Carelines to engagement centres where we will talk to consumers as well as stakeholders.

To conclude, the increased importance of engaging with stakeholders will require changes in approach, tools and techniques. To be successful the following factors are important:

  • Alignment with the organisation’s long term goals, build understanding internally and maximise impact through an integrated approach

  • Manage the expectations of internal and external stakeholders based on trust, respect and transparency

  • Monitor the outcomes of stakeholder relationships

  • Make best use of online platforms

  • Invest in leaders’ competences and skills to enable success in the current and future complex and connected stakeholder world.

Business associations and alliances

Given that we have operations in more than 190 countries, it is not possible to list all our engagement activity with stakeholders.

Our principal business associations – particularly where we are engaged in dialogue with governments and regulators – are set out in the table below.

Unilever Memberships: Key European & International Industry Associations & Advocacy Organisations

Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)

Mission/Objectives

BASCAP works with the global business community to more efficiently identify and address intellectual property rights issues and petition for greater commitments by local, national and international officials in the enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights. While carrying out these functions BASCAP also works to increase public awareness of the problems and dangers associated with intellectual property rights violations.

Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC)

Mission/Objectives

BIAC is an independent organisation officially recognised by the OECD as being representative of the OECD business community. BIAC's members are the major industrial and employers' organisations in the 34 OECD member countries. Via its 38 standing committees and policy groups, BIAC mirrors all economic policy issues the OECD covers, and their impacts on both member countries and an increasing number of non-member countries such as Russia and China.

Cosmetics Europe

Mission/Objectives

Cosmetics Europe represents more than 4,000 companies operating in the European cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry, with an annual turnover of €70 billion. It is committed to the ongoing development of safe, sustainable, innovative and effective products and to continuously meeting the demands of consumers through intensive market research and enhanced product information.

European Brands Association [Association des Industries de Marque](AIM)

Mission/Objectives

AIM represents the interests of brand manufacturers and 21 national branding associations. Its mission is to create for brands an environment of fair and vigorous competition, fostering innovation and guaranteeing maximum value to consumers.

European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC)

Mission/Objectives

CEFIC represents around 29,000 large, medium and small chemical companies, which account for over 20% of the world chemical production. Its mission is to maintain and develop a prosperous chemical industry in Europe by promoting the development of sustainable, workable, proportional, predictable and science-based legislation to ensure the continued competitiveness of the industry.

European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN)

Mission/Objectives

The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment is the only pan-European cross-sectoral industry body dedicated exclusively to resolving the environmental challenges facing the packaging supply chain in an active and cooperative manner, without favouring any specific material or system. EUROPEN promotes the benefits of packaging and best practices concerning its environmental performances, and supports packaging policies in Europe which are environmentally, economically and scientifically sound, as well as socially and politically acceptable. EUROPEN aims to achieve a fully accessible European market for packaging and packaged products, while protecting the product and the environment.

EUROPEN is open to any company with an economic and sustainability interest in packaging and packaged products. EUROPEN membership is comprised of multinational corporate companies spanning the packaging value chain (raw material producers, converters and brand owners) plus five national packaging organizations all committed to continuously improving the environmental performances of packaged products, in collaboration with their suppliers and customers.

FoodDrinkEurope (FDE)

Mission/Objectives

FoodDrinkEurope represents the interests of the food and drink industries in Europe. It is committed to an environment where all European food and drink companies can compete effectively for sustainable growth in the context of an enlarged EU and global markets. It does this by contributing to the development of a legislative and economic framework addressing competitiveness, food quality and safety, consumer information and respect for the environment.

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

Mission/Objectives

GAIN is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN supports public–private partnerships to increase access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for people, communities and economies to be stronger and healthier. It was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children.

Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP)

Mission/Objectives

The Global Social Compliance Programme is a business-driven programme for the continuous improvement of working and environmental conditions in global supply chains. The GSCP was created by and for global buying companies wanting to work collaboratively on improving the sustainability (social and environmental) of their often-shared supply base. To this end, these companies are working on harmonising existing efforts to deliver a shared, global and sustainable approach based on consensus and best existing practice.

International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE)

Mission/Objectives

AISE is the official representative body of the soaps, detergents and maintenance products industry in Europe. Its membership totals 34 national associations in 39 countries, covering about 900 companies ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises to large multinationals active both in the consumer goods market and the industrial and institutional sectors. The AISE mission is to communicate effectively and objectively the values of its members to improve the economic and legal environment in which the industry operates.

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Mission/Objectives

The International Chamber of Commerce is the voice of world business. Its work covers a broad spectrum, from arbitration and dispute resolution to making the case for open trade and the market economy. In particular, it seeks to forge internationally agreed rules and standards that companies adopt voluntarily and can be incorporated in binding contracts. These cover vital technical and sectoral subjects such as financial services, information technologies, telecommunications, marketing ethics, the environment, anti-corruption, competition law and intellectual property.

As part of its work, the ICC provides business input to the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and many other intergovernmental bodies, both international and regional.

International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA)

Mission/Objectives

IFBA is a group of food and non-alcoholic beverage companies with a global presence, who share a common goal of helping consumers in all nations to achieve balanced diets and healthy lifestyles.

Since the launch of the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in 2004, member companies have made substantial progress individually in addressing health and wellness concerns. In 2008, IFBA was formed to provide further impetus to the global food and beverage industry to work together in a number of key areas, recognised by the WHO and others as crucial to implementing the 2004 Global Strategy.

International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE)

Mission/Objectives

Founded in 1958 and based in Brussels, the International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE) is the voice of margarine manufacturers to key stakeholders/authorities of the European Union and other international organisations. It represents margarine companies, producing both for retail and business to business (B2B) sectors throughout Europe.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

Mission/Objectives

PAHO is an international public health agency with almost 110 years of experience in working to improve health and living standards in the Americas. It serves as the specialised organisation for health of the Inter-American System. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization and enjoys international recognition as part of the United Nations system.

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)

Mission/Objectives

SUN is a UN-led multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to tackle continuing high levels of undernutrition and hunger in the world. The initiative is being led by David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition. Its mission is to ensure high-quality and tailored support for efforts to scale up nutrition within participating countries – in line with both national and global targets.

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI)

Mission/Objectives

SAI Platform is a platform created by the food industry to actively support development of, and to communicate worldwide about, sustainable agriculture involving the different stakeholders of the food chain. SAI Platform supports agricultural practices and agricultural production systems that preserve the future availability of current resources and enhance their efficiency.

Tropical Forest Alliance 2020

Mission/Objectives

The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 is a public–private partnership between the US government and the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). The CGF is a large industry body made up of almost all the major retail and consumer goods companies in the world. The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 was announced at the Rio+20 summit. It aims to reduce and eventually eliminate the deforestation associated with the sourcing of commodity crops such as soy, palm oil, beef, and pulp and paper.

United Nations Global Compact

Mission/Objectives

The UN Global Compact is a leadership platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible and sustainable corporate policies and practices. Endorsed by chief executives, it seeks to align business operations and strategies everywhere with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. With more than 8,500 signatories in over 135 countries, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Mission/Objectives

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a CEO-led organisation of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. Together with its members, the Council applies its respected thought leadership and effective advocacy to generate constructive solutions and take shared action. Leveraging its strong relationships with stakeholders as the leading advocate for business, the Council helps drive debate and policy change in favour of sustainable development solutions.

The WBCSD provides a forum for its 200 member companies - who represent all business sectors, all continents and a combined revenue of more than $7 trillion - to share best practices on sustainable development issues and to develop innovative tools that change the status quo. The Council also benefits from a network of 60 national and regional business councils and partner organisations, a majority of which are based in developing countries.

World Economic Forum (WEF)

Mission/Objectives

WEF is an independent international organisation committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

World Environment Center (WEC)

Mission/Objectives

Founded in 1974, WEC is an independent, global, non-profit, non-advocacy organisation that advances sustainable development through the business practices of member companies and in partnership with governments, multi-lateral organisations, non-governmental organisations, universities and other stakeholders..

World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)

Mission/Objectives

The WFA is the voice of advertisers worldwide, representing 90% of global marketing communications expenditures through a unique global network that includes 50 national advertiser associations on five continents, as well as direct multinational corporate members. Through the network, the WFA represents more than 10,000 businesses operating in a broad spectrum of sectors at national, regional and global levels. The WFA has a dual mission: to defend and promote responsible commercial communications; and to facilitate a media environment, which stimulates maximum effectiveness of advertising spend.