Unilever - Transparency and Human Rights

One of the points for consideration in the Castlefield investment process is transparency. The level of information a company chooses to share is, in our view, indicative of the quality of that company. The level of disclosure is key to evaluating the risks faced by a business. This allows us to assess better whether the actions a company may be taking to mitigate those risks are effective and having a material impact.

Global brands often have complex supply chains which means that the opportunity for exploitation of workers is greater. However, if these corporations act in a responsible manner and shine a light on where these problems exist it means they are better equipped to tackle and prevent labour and human rights abuses in the future.

We were pleased, therefore, to see that Unilever have published a new human rights report that not only details the triumphs of their responsible business practices but also shares with stakeholders where more work needs to be done. We feel that this level of transparency is essential for progress but is, unfortunately, rare. By taking this step, Unilever are paving the way for other companies to publish their human rights impact in similar detail. We hope to use this report as an example for other companies and encourage them to share all relevant information. If company reports are only used to highlight where policies are working well, then they become a marketing tool rather than a catalyst for improvement. We encourage all companies, regardless of performance to improve transparency as a first step towards ensuring respect for human rights across the business itself and those associated with it.

Unilever consistently share a great deal of useful environmental and social performance information with investors and their wider consumer base, supply chain management is a key issue for such a large company and we continue to be impressed with their approach. However, at Castlefield we never rest on our laurels and are in regular contact with investee companies, including Unilever, to ask about how their policies work in practice and encourage more work to be done in areas that we feel pose a particular risk.

You can read the latest human rights report from the company here.


Written by Kate Hewitt