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23 November 2022
Unilever's approach to boosting equity
Diversity & portrayal in advertisingDiverse hiring practices
Unilever, the consumer packaged goods manufacturer, has an agenda for boosting equity that extends across brands, talent, communities and the supply chain.
Aline Santos, Unilever’s chief brand officer and chief equity diversity and inclusion officer, outlined its approach at the 2022 Unstereotype Alliance Global Member Summit in New York.
Why it matters
The push for diversity, equity and inclusion will require marketers to take a joined-up approach spanning their entire operations, from portrayals and representation in ads to making sure supply chains are truly representative.
Unilever’s four-pronged approach
Santos outlined four broad categories that are shaping Unilever’s equity agenda:
Brands: Unilever’s brands, which include the Dove beauty line and Lifebuoy soap, reach billions of people across the globe, aided by significant advertising expenditure. One way of boosting its equity agenda is to ensure the casting in its ads is diverse and reflects the audiences it serves.
The result? “Today, 95% of the advertising from Unilever is considered ‘unstereotypical’ by consumers,” explained Santos. “And the 5% that is still not, we either shut down, or we change it [so it] can become unstereotypical.” Similar efforts are taking place behind the camera, too, to drive progress across the wider media ecosystem.
Communities: By tapping into purpose-driven strategies, Unilever’s brands can make a tangible impact on the communities they serve.
One initiative focuses on the fact that many Black children and adults cannot wear their hair in the natural way at school or in the workplace. In response, Unilever is spearheading the CROWN Act, aiming to drive legislative change on a state-by-state level across the US.
Talent: Corporate talent policies at many large organisations, Santos noted, were written “some time ago”, and therefore do not always reflect the full slate of contemporary values. “We want those policies to be right in terms of gender, in terms of sexual orientation, in terms of people's abilities, in terms of race and ethnicity. And, actually, what you're trying to do is simply to level the playing field for people,” she said.
Supply chain: Unilever has committed to spending €2bn ($2.1bn) with diverse businesses worldwide by 2025.
At the brand level, an example of its approach comes with The Next Black Millionaire Fund from SheaMoisture, a beauty brand in Unilever’s portfolio. This competition offered prizes including $100,000 grants and collaboration opportunities, as well as business development and retail distribution support, to three Black-owned businesses.
“Potentially, they're going to become million-dollar companies – and Unilever partners as well,” Santos said.
The big idea
“What we're trying to do is to create something that is sustainable, that is systemic, that can really go by itself. It doesn't depend on passionate leaders; it's something that really changes the way we operate as a company. And we believe that this has to be holistic, and it has to be intersectional” – Aline Santos, chief brand officer, Unilever.