Oxfam has published a report following an investigation conducted into conditions for workers across Unilever’s Vietnamese operations and supply chain. The charity applauded the Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant’s willingness to cooperate in the project, but claimed that there were ‘significant challenges’ ahead.
“We had expected to find endemic global supply chain issues such as low wages, weak industrial relations and precarious work within Unilever’s ‘high risk’ suppliers, but were surprised to find them in its own factory. We also found that workers have a weak voice and experienced ‘inadvertent neglect’,” wrote the authors in their concluding statement.
The report highlighted Unilever’s efforts to date, including improved sourcing policies, greater trust between workers and management, higher wages and better employment benefits and job security.
However, the charity called for Unilever to change its corporate policies to build in a commitment to a Living Wage and minimize precarious work throughout its operations and supply chain; usher in processes to support good labor practices, such as training and targets for buyers; strengthen its due diligence process to allow workers a voice; and engage with governments and other multinationals to force change.
In response to the report, Unilever CEO Paul Polman made a number of commitments to address the issues raised. “As a business we have a process of continuous improvement, and it is fair to say that this report highlights areas where we still have a lot more to do. However, it will spur us on to redouble our efforts,” he said.