Marketing Gender Equality Inclusion

Unilever pledges to purge ads of stereotypes and work with more diverse suppliers


By John Glenday | Reporter

January 21, 2021 | 5 min read

Unilever has pledged to root out advertising stereotypes from its marketing and work with more businesses run by women and under-represented groups as part of its latest inclusivity drive.


Unilever brand Dove has already been aiming to break down stereotypes with its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign

The consumer goods giant, which counts Dove and Ben & Jerry’s among its brands, has made increased diversity a priority in light of increased public attention.

Unilever’s new diversity drive

  • The British-Dutch multinational will position market-leading brands such as Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Wall’s ice cream and Dove soap on the frontline of its campaign to build inclusivity.

  • Backed by the mammoth spending power of one of the world’s largest advertising budgets, Unilever is in a unique position to make a real difference to representation through marketing.

  • Putting its money where its mouth is, Unilever has pledged to boost annual spend on companies owned and managed by women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQI+ community from £300m to £1.8bn by 2025.

  • This reallocation of resources will inevitably lead to advertising and production priorities shifting in pursuit of this money, establishing a roadmap for broader representation in the industry.

  • As part of its bid to bring about change, Unilever will also increase the number of adverts that star or were created by people from diverse backgrounds to ”tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people”.

  • In a blog post explaining its shift towards a proactive stance on equality, Unilever wrote: ”We also want to use the strength of our brands, and our position as the second-largest advertiser in the world, to drive change. We will increase the number of advertisements that include people from diverse groups, both on-screen and behind the camera. We will help tackle the prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising, and promote a more inclusive representation of people.”

  • Unilever has been building up to such a policy for a long time, vowing to stamp out gender stereotyping following research that found 40% of women do not identify with their portrayal.

  • This ’unstereotype’ drive has already won Unilever brands significant support from consumers, with household favorites Knorr, Dove, Cif and Surf all increasing sales after ditching outdated portrayals of women.

  • Taking this approach to new extremes, Unilever has even offered its marketing and agency partners the chance to submit for DNA profiling to bring a scientific answer to diversity.

Anything else?

  • Unilever is fighting for greater inclusivity on several fronts, pledging to refuse to work with any firm that does not pay a living wage to all staff by 2030.

  • Unilever has identified rising salaries as crucial to promoting economic inclusion and is one of the first major corporations to make such a commitment.

  • Outlining its pioneering stance, Unilever added: ”We will work with our suppliers, other businesses, governments and NGOs – through purchasing practices, collaboration and advocacy – to create systemic change and global adoption of living wage practices.”

  • The reverberations of this stance promise to be profound, with some 60,000 suppliers covered by the commitment worldwide and those refusing to play ball facing the loss of contracts.

  • Unilever’s approach would be carried out in conjunction with audits of suppliers’ climate change commitments.

  • Unilever chief executive Alan Jope said: ”The two biggest threats that the world currently faces are climate change and social inequality. The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent, and offers opportunities for everyone.”

  • Within the decade, Unilever has also pledged to train 10 million young people with essential workplace skills.

Marketing Gender Equality Inclusion

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