Working with our suppliers

We have recently launched a new Responsible Sourcing Policy which demonstrates Unilever’s commitment to responsible and sustainable sourcing. Our new Policy replaces Unilever’s previous Supplier Code which has been in operation since 2011.

Responsible Sourcing Policy

The Responsible Sourcing Policy is the overarching framework for all our sourcing policies such as Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Code and the Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy.

Building on the Supplier Code, the new Policy takes us several steps further on our responsible and sustainable sourcing journey. The result is a new approach that is more rigorous and will raise the standards and aspirations of our supplier partners.

The Responsible Sourcing Policy is grounded in 12 Fundamental Principles and has been developed in close collaboration with leading figures in responsible sourcing across industry, government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The most noticeable change between the existing Supplier Code and the new Responsible Sourcing Policy is the introduction of a three-stage continuous improvement process for suppliers. We consider the Mandatory Requirements to be the foundation for doing business together before evolving, and advancing to good, and then ultimately to best practice.

Supplier assurance

We source raw materials and packaging for our production operations and non-production goods and services from thousands of suppliers. Our policy applies to all the suppliers with whom we have a direct relationship - we call these our Tier 1 suppliers.  We source from around 100,000 Tier 1 suppliers.  Managing this supply chain and achieving responsible sourcing standards is a complex task. We will focus initially on our largest suppliers who represent the majority of our spend. 

We respect that suppliers may have their own business codes and are committed to implementing policies and values in their businesses. Unilever requires suppliers to compare, contrast and confirm alignment of their business codes to the Responsible Sourcing Policy, and acknowledge Unilever’s twelve 12 Fundamental Principles. Based on our assessment of supplier risk, we may request further verification from suppliers in the form of self-assessments and audits.  This is to verify that their operational practices meet our Mandatory Requirements.

If the practices do not meet the Mandatory Requirements, our suppliers need to take the necessary actions to achieve compliance. This work is a continuous process, and we rely on collaboration with our suppliers to make it possible. In cases of serious, deliberate or persistent non-cooperation or non-compliance, we reserve the right to cease doing business with that supplier.

We work with industry peers to deploy a common approach to supplier assessments that is recognised across our industry. In doing so, our suppliers may exchange their assessments with other customers. This facilitates a process where suppliers can confidentially share their audit reports on the principle that ‘an audit for one is an audit for all’. This reduces unnecessary duplication and complexity and accelerates the process of assessing suppliers. It also allows our partners to focus on improving their supply chains.