Unilever and UN Women announce a global partnership to improve women’s safety in the tea industry


UN Women and Unilever today announced a partnership to develop an evidence-based and human rights-based “Intervention Programme to inform the development of a Global Framework on Women’s Safety,” which will be implemented across Unilever’s supply chain in the tea industry. The programme will be implemented from 2017 – 2019 and aims to ensure that women and girls are socially, economically and politically empowered. Working with multi sectoral actors, including government authorities, UN Women and other UN agencies, women’s organizations, suppliers and other partners, the programme aims to apply the Global Framework to Unilever’s supply chain and extend into the wider tea industry and other commodities over time. 

“Empowering women with equal rights is the most important thing we—and any business—can do to drive the success of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” said Paul Polman, CEO Unilever. “At Unilever, the safety of women working across our supply chain is a top priority—helping them to be productive at work, support their families and fuel their economies. We are delighted to partner with UN Women on the development of the Global Framework on Women’s Safety, to help empower five million women in our value chain and raise standards across the wider tea industry.”

The Global Framework, inclusive of a comprehensive implementation programme, will be informed over the next three years by the knowledge, tools and good practices that emerge from both partners’ initiatives including Unilever’s ongoing Women’s Safety Programme in Kenya, with the intent of rolling out to other locations, as well as UN Women’s Flagship Programmes, “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” and “Prevention and Essential Services to End Violence against Violence against Women and Girls”.

Announcing the partnership, which builds further on Unilever’s previous strong engagement on gender equality within the HeForShe movement as a Corporate IMPACT 10x10x10 Champion, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “Ensuring women’s safety where they work and live is a significant commitment to change for everyone concerned—employer, workers and the community. This new multi-stakeholder partnership that we are entering into with Unilever will bring important experience from the local level where the programme is being put into action in Kenya and other places. This will feed into the development of a global programming framework for broader applications across the tea industry and others, and help us achieve further global progress in ensuring safe and inclusive spaces for women and girls."

The programme will contribute towards multiple Sustainable Development Goals, which put women’s empowerment and gender equality at the centre of sustainable development. It is also in line with Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which stresses the importance of enhancing livelihoods, and with Unilever’s commitment to empower five million women by advancing opportunities for women in its operations. It will specifically target Unilever’s commitment towards safety for women, as well as provide up-skilling and expand opportunities in its retail operations by 2020.