Unilever to publish human rights report based on new framework
Human rights reporting has historically been the weakest part of corporate ESG reporting. Many reports remain anecdotal and until recently there was no clarity on what the standard should look like. Robeco is a strong supporter of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework launched earlier this year to help companies manage and report on human rights risks within their operations. Robeco joined a collaboration of over 90 other investors with close to $5 trillion in assets supporting the development, roll out, adoption and implementation of the new UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. Unilever is the first company to publish a stand-alone human rights report based on this framework. The report was well received by investors.
Unilever first adopter
As part of their commitment to the framework, Unilever organized a roundtable with expert stakeholders in May to define what a credible Human Rights report should look like. We attended this meeting and expressed our support for the ‘UN Guiding Principles for Human Rights Reporting Framework’ and stressed the importance of this framework supporting internal discussions and progress. This would add value for Unilever’s reporting effort. We also highlighted the importance of linking human rights issues to the business case.
Engaging internally and externally
Following the issue of its first Human Rights Report on the basis of the ‘UN Guiding Principles for Human Rights Reporting Framework’, Unilever held an investor conference call on July 23rd to get feedback on their first report. During the call Unilever emphasized the need for every employee and supplier to have an appropriate understanding about the information reported and its interaction with Reporting Framework’s principles. Unilever communicates the main findings of the report across its procurement teams as well as throughout its supply chain. In doing this, they intend to open a two-way dialogue where people can feed back on the report both, internally and externally.
Link to the business
Unilever explained that they have analyzed country-specific risks on a systematic basis. Having identified the degree of human rights risks per country, the company looked at their relation with the business case. Secondly, in order to discern the salience of issues, the company put together a cross-functional team which approached this matter from the rights holder’s perspective and tried to identify the value proposition for each issue. The salient human rights issues identified by Unilever are Discrimination, Fair wages, Forced Labour, Freedom of association, Harassment, Health & safety, Land rights and Working hours. Unilever has introduced a part of its sustainability reporting framework into investor relations presentations, which are not necessarily targeted at SRI.
Collaboration is essential
Unilever is interested in developing collective frameworks that would allow addressing human rights issues pre-emptively. Overall, Unilever seeks for industry and civil collaboration in order to reach the collective goal of ‘doing good’ instead of ‘do not do bad’.
Robeco continues to engage with companies on human rights
We would like to see other companies follow Unilevers lead and fully embrace this new framework. We will be discussing the framework with the companies which we engage with on Human Rights under the Global Compact breaches theme, the Data privacy theme and the Social issues in the Food & Agri supply chain theme.