Unilever and Shift announce a collaboration in support of the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI)

15 September 2014

Unilever and Shift are pleased to announce a collaboration in support of the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI). RAFI is a global initiative to promote transparency in how companies meet their responsibility to respect human rights.

RAFI will develop a twin set of publicly available frameworks, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. One framework will focus on what good corporate reporting of human rights performance looks like; the other on what good assurance of such reporting would involve. The frameworks are being developed through extensive multi-stakeholder consultations held in various countries around the world. A draft of the reporting framework will be available for comment and consultation in November 2014.

Unilever will work with Shift to conduct the first pilot of the draft reporting framework in 2014-2015. This framework will inform how Unilever reports on its on-going efforts to implement the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Unilever’s experience with the framework will, in turn, inform the framework’s further development, prior to its finalization at the end of 2015.

Speaking at the launch of the collaboration, Marcela Manubens, Global Vice President for Social Impact at Unilever said, “Upholding human rights is the foundation of a healthy society and sustainable business. Respecting the rights of those on whom we depend, and those living in the communities around us, is at the heart of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We are delighted to be working on this important pilot.”

“The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have been instrumental in bringing clarity and transparency to the role of business in respecting human rights. RAFI, through its extensive and credible stakeholder consultation process and the expertise of those leading its development, offers a unique opportunity to help Unilever deliver on our commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles throughout our operations and to report on our progress publicly.”

Caroline Rees of Shift, speaking for the RAFI project team, commented that, “This pilot marks a crucial step in the evolution of the RAFI Frameworks. The Reporting Framework is being developed through extensive public consultations, with companies, investors, civil society organisations and governments. This is crucial in ensuring it responds to both business realities and the needs of those who read company reports. But everyone will need to see how the framework works in practice before we can be sure it meets its objectives. There can be no better company to test it with than Unilever, with its demonstrated commitment both to sustainability and to public disclosure.”


RAFI is supported by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and overseen by an Eminent Persons Group co-chaired by Prof. John Ruggie, author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Marzuki Darusman, Executive Director of the Human Rights Resource Centre in ASEAN. The project is facilitated by Shift, an independent, non-profit centre for business and human rights practice, and Mazars, a global audit and advisory firm, in liaison with the Human Rights Resource Centre for ASEAN. The pilot with Unilever will be the first, with others planned for 2015. Information on RAFI can be found on the project’s portal here. Enquiries for further information can be directed to anna.triponel@shiftproject.org

The UN Guiding Principles were developed by Prof. John Ruggie over the six years of his mandate as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. They were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 and have become the authoritative global reference point on business and human rights. Today, they are reflected in the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the European Commission’s policy on Corporate Social Responsibility, the ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility, the Performance Standards of the International Finance Corporation, as well as the standards of a host of industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives focused on human rights challenges for companies.

Specifically, the Guiding Principles set out:

  • the duty of states to protect human rights from abuse by third parties, including business;
  • the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights, meaning not to infringe on the human rights of others and to address any human rights impacts with which they are involved, and
  • the need for more effective remedy for the victims of corporate-related human rights abuses.

For further information on the UN Guiding Principles see: http://business-humanrights.org/en/un-guiding-principles

About Unilever:

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries. We work with 174,000 colleagues around the world and generated annual sales of €49.8 billion in 2013. Over half of our company’s footprint is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (57% in 2013). Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known brands, 14 of which - Knorr, Persil / Omo, Dove, Sunsilk, Hellmann’s, Surf, Lipton, Rexona / Sure, Wall’s ice cream, Lux, Flora / Becel, Rama / Blue Band, Magnum and Axe / Lynx - now generate a turnover of €1 billion or more.

Our ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental footprint (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal) and increasing our positive social impact. We are committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling our growth from our environmental impact. Supporting our three big goals, we have defined nine commitments, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. See more on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/.

Unilever has been ranked number one in their sector in the 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. Unilever has been named sector leader of the CDP’s Forests programme for three consecutive years, and in 2014 led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey - for the fourth year running. Unilever was named LinkedIn’s third most sought-after employer worldwide in 2013.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com.

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