The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan for

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Inclusive business

Inclusive business

Millions of people help source, make and sell our products. We want to help them unlock even more of their potential – so they can support themselves, their communities and our business.

Building connections, removing barriers

There's a story behind every one of our products – the story of the people who make them possible. The people in our factories and sites who make our brands play a crucial part. But beyond our walls, there is a network of millions more, from the smallholder farmers in our extended supply chain, to the retailers and entrepreneurs who bring our brands to new and existing consumers.

All over the world, we rely on and support the people who contribute to our success. We have strong connections with them already and we want to make them even stronger. By helping to remove the barriers to growth faced by the people in our value chain, we aim to help them grow and thrive.

Unlocking the potential of millions

Through technology, training, increased access to markets and better ways of working, we believe we can help millions of people unlock their potential and, in the process, contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals including No Poverty (SDG1), and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8).

Making our organisation more inclusive also makes strong business sense. It helps to secure our essential raw materials, expands the markets for our products and increases the resilience of our business model in an uncertain world.

Our strategy


We aim to contribute to economic wellbeing through wealth creation, employment, improving skills and providing access to markets – creating a virtuous cycle of growth that both drives, and is driven, by our business.

We aim to make our approach holistic and integrated with the business, because we recognise that social, environmental and commercial progress are all interconnected. We know that smallholder farmers, for instance, often lack access to markets, to financial support, and to information and training. They can also be held back by poor diet, gender inequalities and health problems, including those caused by inadequate sanitation.

Our programmes and partnerships aimed at helping smallholders, bring in elements from across our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, including promoting sustainable agriculture practices, empowering women, advancing human rights and fairness in the workplace, and improving health & hygiene and nutrition.

Similarly, our work with small-scale retailers and entrepreneurs in our distribution network focuses on helping them build their capacity and addressing the barriers that currently hold them back, such as limited market information, access to credit, and a lack of business or financial management skills. By tackling these obstacles to growth, we create further ways to have a positive social impact – such as by expanding opportunities for women in our value chain.

Inclusive business pillar
Our commitment

By 2020, we will have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people by improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and the incomes of small-scale retailers, and by increasing the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Progress to date

In 2017, we enabled around 716,000† smallholder farmers and 1.6 million small-scale retailers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices or increase their incomes.Ж Φ

Independently assured by PwC.

Ж  Around 370,000 women have accessed initiatives under both the Inclusive Business and the Opportunities for Women pillars in 2017. 

Φ  Measured 1 October – 30 September.

Future challenges

While we have made good progress in improving the agriculture practices of many of our smallholder farmers through certification programmes, the challenge is to provide proof of impact that extends beyond agricultural practices, in areas such as health and nutrition, which can act as barriers to improved livelihoods. These issues must be addressed holistically and systematically. That's why we are working with a wide range of partners to improve the systems and infrastructure in which smallholders operate.

Similarly, for small-scale retailers, our ambition is to increase their incomes through our programmes such as Shakti and Kabisig Summits. We have evidence that our sales increase through such initiatives but there is more work to be done to quantify the impact on small-scale retailer incomes. It is our aim to capture this information as part of our new small-scale retailer learning platform.


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Targets & performance

As part of the Inclusive Business pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have set ambitious targets to create a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people.

Inclusive business
Our Commitment

By 2020, we will have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people, by improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, improving the incomes of small-scale retailers and increasing the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Our performance

In 2017, we enabled around 716,000 smallholder farmers and 1.6 million small-scale retailers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices or increase their incomes.Ж Φ

Our perspective

We have enabled around 1.6 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network to access initiatives aiming to increase their incomes, principally through Perfect Store, Kabisig Summits in the Philippines and Shakti in India and Nigeria. We do not report all small-scale retailer initiatives due to data availability and quality issues.

Through our commitment to sourcing sustainably – in particular cocoa, tea, palm oil, vanilla and vegetables – we are strengthening smallholder farming and making good progress towards our 2020 target. By working with our suppliers and partners, we have enabled around 716,000 smallholder farmers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices.

† Independently assured by PwC.

Ж Around 370,000 women have accessed initiatives under both the Inclusive Business and the Opportunities for Women pillars in 2017.

Φ Measured 1 October – 30 September.


  • Achieved 0

  • On-Plan 2

  • Off-Plan 2

  • %

    Of target achieved 0

Key to our performance
  • Achieved

    This is the number of targets we have achieved

  • On-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are on track to achieve

  • Off-Plan

    This is the number of targets we are currently not on track

  • %

    Of target achieved

    This is the percentage of the target we are on track to achieve

Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers

Our goal is to engage with at least 500,000 smallholder farmers in our supply network. We will help them improve their agricultural practices and thus enable them to become more competitive. By doing so we will improve the quality of their livelihoods.

In 2017, we enabled around 716,000 smallholder farmers to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices.


Our Perspective

We continue to roll out programmes aiming to improve the agricultural practices of smallholder farmers. New initiatives reported this year include the Black Soy Bean Bango Initiative in Indonesia and smallholder tea farmer certification in Sri Lanka.

Through our programmes, we're working to help smallholders improve their yields and increase the quality and consistency of the crops they grow. That gives them the platform to increase their incomes, while giving us the visibility and resilience we need to achieve a truly sustainable supply chain.

Improving yield and quality is only part of the story. Smallholder farmers often lack access to markets, financial support, and information and training. Without them, their growth is constrained which can mean missed opportunities for yields and quality. Other factors can also hold them back, such as poor diet, gender inequality and health problems caused by inadequate sanitation. That’s why we’re also working with a wide range of partners, such as the Global Alliance of Improved Nutrition, to tackle these issues and give smallholders the best possible chance to thrive.

Connecting with smallholder farmers to enhance livelihoods

Improve incomes of small-scale retailers

We will create and improve the incomes of 5 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network.

We have enabled around 1.6 million small-scale retailers in our distribution network to access our Perfect Store initiative, as well as other programmes such as the Shakti initiative and Kabisig Summits.


Our Perspective

The number of small-scale retailers accessing initiatives increased slightly in 2017 to 1.6 million, principally through the continued roll-out of our Kabisig Summits in the Philippines and Shakti programme in India and Nigeria.

We have been developing our approach to ensure we are enabling as many small-scale retailers as possible to access training, and not just those served through our Perfect Store initiative.

We expect progress against this target to accelerate from next year as we will be bringing all training modules together into a fully integrated, certified small-scale retailer learning platform. It will track the number of small-scale retailers who access training, including financial literacy and basic training on hygiene, sanitation and nutrition to meet their shoppers’ needs better, as well as improving their own families’ livelihoods.

Empowering small-scale retailers for growth

Increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain

We will increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

We will train and enable young people to participate in the agricultural business sector globally and in the distribution channels of our brands to market.

We continue to help young people through our agricultural supply chain and distribution channels.


Our Perspective

Since 2014, we have been working to bring more young entrepreneurs into our value chain, principally through our inclusive business programmes in developing and emerging markets.

One example is Safeer, a small-scale retailer initiative in Egypt. It aims to recruit and train young people to support the distribution of Unilever products in the top 1,000 villages in Egypt, which otherwise would be too expensive for the Unilever salesforce to reach. Similarly, Unilever Bangladesh has pioneered an initiative to recruit unemployed young people to help sell our brands across rural regions of Bangladesh where there is no direct coverage.

Our smallholder farmer programmes also support young people, such as those growing vanilla in Madagascar. In partnership with Symrise, Save the Children and the federal development agency GIZ, we are working to break the inter-generational transfer of poverty through agricultural training and education. Through our programmes, we're working to help smallholders improve their yields and increase the quality and consistency of the crops they grow.

Helping young entrepreneurs
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