Trustonomics in action: Unilever to insists its suppliers pay 'living wage'

“The way we treat members of society is definitely going to become a reason for people to preferentially choose our brands.” Alan Jope CEO

Today Unilever has announced that by 2030 it will refuse to do business with any firm that does not pay staff a living wage.

It’s a stunning example of Trustonomics put into practice by one of the world’s biggest companies. Saturn suggests that your business will be more successful if you enter into a more trusted relationship with their customers. This is the journey Unilever are on. We call it Trustonomics.

Over the years we’ve watched Unilever - the largest company on the London Stock Exchange - evolve into a more equitable, mutual organisation. We got a hunch this all started back in 2004 with the runaway success of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund in 2006.

We like to think Unilever realised just how much they stood to gain if they approached marketing with honest intentions. Since then former CEO Paul Polman, former CMO Keith Weed and, more recently, CEO Alan Jope have implemented an ever expanding Sustainable Living Plan with its goal to “decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact.”

On Saturn we have to admit we’ve watched this rollout with some skepticism - writing a piece in 2019 we questioned Unilever's idea that all brands must have a higher purpose. But Unilever have consistently delivered on their commitment and with this latest move insisting a living wage throughout its supply chain we have to conclude Unilever's commitment goes far deeper than the virtue signalling we so often see elsewhere.

In this interview (BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme 21/01/21 7:30 am ) you can hear in Alan Jope’s voice a genuine belief in the project. I suspect, this comes not simply from altruistic reasons but because he knows this approach makes good business sense. To reiterate this is the underlying principle of Trustonomics. Helping people and the planet also makes solid business sense.

As Jope says in the interview

“We are seeing a rise in conscious consumption. More and more people care about the environment and the social conduct of brands and companies that they are buying from… The way we treat members of society is definitely going to become a reason for people to preferentially choose our brands.
We have two goals:
1) A society where everyone makes a fair living wage, where people have the money for clothing, feeding, educating themselves. That’s good for business.
2) We want to be seen as a company that treats people in our value chain properly and we think those people will choose our brands as a consequence of that.”

Listen to extended highlights of the interview here:

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