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Partner with Purpose

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Welcome to the future of partnerships

Unilever’s Partner with Purpose (UPWP) programme, which launched in 2020, is taking purpose-led partnerships to a whole new level to fuel industry-leading innovations, protect and regenerate nature and make sustainable living commonplace.

UPWP is an evolution in the way we partner that allows us to continually respond to new and emerging consumer trends. We are getting even closer to our partners through this programme by encouraging more responsible and transparent innovation to deliver on our ambitious commitments and generate mutual growth together.

In March 2023, we hosted our Partner with Purpose Global Summit and Awards Ceremony in London, UK.

The theme for this year’s summit was “An eye to the future”, where we shared insights on winning in the marketplace, the transformations needed to make it happen, the critical role our partners play in our success, and the mutual growth we can achieve together.

Over two days, we were joined by the Unilever Leadership Executive where we openly discussed the strategic priorities of our business, and the role of partnerships in driving competitive and sustainable growth. We also heard about the latest trends and opportunities in technology, sustainability and R&D and how we can accelerate growth through digital marketing and commerce.

Check out the event highlights video.

Our growth ecosystem

We are building a new partner ecosystem to create opportunities for all. We welcome partners of all sizes - from small start-ups to global multinationals – to collaborate with us, either on a one-to-one basis, or as part of a multi-partner partnership. Whatever the dynamic, we expect all our partners to share our sense of purpose and willingness to drive mutual growth and competitiveness whilst being a force for good for people and the planet. Together, we can and must do both. Our UPWP programme is designed to deliver against Unilever’s three Compass beliefs: Brands with purpose grow, People with purpose thrive and Companies with purpose last.

Brands with purpose grow

We’re committed to innovating responsibly and transparently. Together with our partners, we create and deliver solutions to help us meet the ambitious sustainability commitments outlined in our Positive Beauty, Clean Future, and Force for Good divisional strategies.

For example, it’s thanks to our partnership with specialty chemicals company, Evonik, that our Chilean Home Care brand, Quix, was able to launch the world’s first household cleaning product containing a 100% renewable and biodegradable foaming ingredient, known as Rhamnolipid. Read more about our purpose-led collaboration.

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People with purpose thrive

We collaborate with transparency and trust. Using real-time data and collaborative platforms, we provide a transparent end to end partner experience that promotes a true partnership mindset. By working with partners who are aligned with our values, we can ensure the major commodities we rely on are produced sustainably for mainstream consumer markets. Similarly, achieving complete cost transparency helps us to ensure our competitive position in every market we operate in.

For example, our partnership with Viridor, a recycling, resource and waste management company in the UK, allows us to bring extra PCR capacity to the UK to meet our plastics goals. Together with our local resource management consultant, Nextek, the three of us worked to develop detectable black plastic packaging for Unilever’s TRESemmé and Lynx brands, allowing for previously undetectable black plastics to be picked-up by recycling plant scanners. The innovation means that around a further 2,500 tonnes of plastic bottles could now potentially be sorted and sent for recycling each year.

Companies with purpose last

We rely on our partners to promote speed and simplicity in how we work. Unilever’s segmented portfolio allows us to quickly adapt to new channel landscapes and customer needs, creating joint value with our partners.

We aim to support our partners’ growth potential by building capacity in emerging markets and some of the world’s fastest growing regions, looking for joint opportunities to drive efficiency of supply, invest in cutting-edge technology, leverage innovation and foster continuous development of new capabilities.

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Our people plans

Together with our partners, we’re supporting inclusive economic growth and promoting equality through our commitments to supplier diversity and the living wage.

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Our planet plans

We’re collaborating with our partners to halt climate change, by protecting and regenerating nature and becoming a net zero carbon supply chain.

Unilever Partner Promises programme

Partner Promise Climate logo

In August 2021, we launched our Partner Promises programme, an initiative designed to further align our suppliers to our Compass ambitions and encourage them to begin their own sustainability journeys so that, together, we can scale and accelerate our successes.

Through our first two promises - The Supplier Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Promise and the Living Wage/Living Income Promise - Unilever is inviting supply partners to demonstrate their shared values and commitment to addressing social inequality in our value chains by encouraging partners to commit to a set of actions that will tangibly promote equality and inclusion in their own value chains. Through our Climate Promise, we encourage suppliers to measure, reduce and report on emissions in their own value chains as we seek to achieve net-zero emissions across our value chain by 2039.

Unilever Partner with Purpose Awards

As part of the Partner with Purpose Global Summit, we also hosted our third annual Partner with Purpose Awards Ceremony. At the ceremony, we celebrated and recognised our exceptional partners for their game-changing contributions in driving competitive value, sustainability, superior products and services, innovation, and resilience and agility.

The winners of this year’s awards are:

Outstanding Innovation Award

2022 Winner: KDC/One

KDC/One and Unilever have had a successful partnership for over 20 years, with a focus on driving innovation, cost efficiency, and resiliency in North America. In 2022, the strategic partnership was taken to the next level by expanding and developing solutions for new product capabilities in Home Care, Beauty & Wellbeing, and Personal Care. Over the years, our partnership has produced a library of category-leading innovations and new consumer experiences; most recently the award-winning Dove refill stick deodorant, a premium, sustainable product with incredible science.

Agility and Resilience Award

2022 Winner: Agraz

Agraz is a family-owned business in agriculture, and has been a pioneer to land our Regenerative Agriculture commitment in tomatoes, collaboratively tackling some of our biggest Climate & Nature challenges. For years, Agraz has been critical to Unilever’s regenerative agriculture journey: sharing our core belief that growth and regrowth go hand in hand.

Through baked-in resilience, Agraz was able to guarantee supply of tomatoes when harvests were reduced by over 30%: ensuring product availability for our consumers’ most trusted brands, such as Knorr and Hellmann’s.

Transformation Award

2022 Winner: Sabic

Working with Sabic, we have introduced the world’s first food grade recycled poly-propylene (rPP) resin using an innovative advanced recycling process and continue to expand our collaboration to drive a truly circular economy. Thanks to Sabic, our fantastic Magnum tubs maintain the iconic chocolate “crack” synonymous with the brand experience, whilst also transitioning to a more sustainable future and making a measurable and significant impact on our plastic targets.

Partner Excellence Award

2022 Winner: Publicis Groupe

Tasked with enriching our capabilities in shopper marketing in the US, Publicis Groupe exceeded our expectations in both the quality of execution and results as we navigate the creative commerce revolution. Their innovative approach identified several untapped growth opportunities, feeding into our new digital marketing, media and commerce hubs to respond faster and deliver seamless branded consumer experiences.

Start-up of the Year Award

2022 Winner: H2OK Innovations

H2OK Innovations have solidly proven their value proposition: using spectral sensors and cloud-based AI to provide critical data-fueled insights for our North America Ice Cream Operations. Thus far, they have allowed us to achieve an impressive 18% reduction in downtime during cleaning, unlocking savings in revenue capacity, while saving 40% of a cleaning cycle’s water consumption.

Competitive Value Award

2022 Winner: Axium Packaging

Axium’s vision and commitment for the future of our partnership is truly inspiring: investing millions of dollars in the capacity for recycled plastics and maximising their impact by working with other key partners in our ecosystem. Axium continues to reinvent their ways of working, offering competitive differentiation and best in class speed to market.

Sustainability Impact Award

2022 Winner: CJ Selecta

Brazil’s soybean oil market relies on a complex network of smallholder farmers and intermediates that make farm-level traceability of our raw materials difficult to establish. To overcome this, CJ Selecta works directly with farmers to demonstrate the benefits of ending deforestation and conversion, with a process for resolving disputes and grievances. By the end of the Green Mill programme, they will achieve full traceability and zero deforestation and conversion across their entire output, a true demonstration of their commitment to transforming the industry and safeguarding our natural landscapes.

Partner of the Year Award

2022 Winner: Symrise AG

Since we signed the Partnership Growth Charter in 2021, together we have transformed Unilever’s capabilities in the fragrance and flavours space. Our partnership sets out the ambition to co-develop superior, affordable fragrances and flavours to fuel brand growth, with zero compromise on sustainability. This partnership has already created broad-reaching impact across all five business groups, with more to come in the years ahead.

CEO Compass Award

2022 Winner: Accenture and Microsoft

In less than 18 months, and in an industry-first, Accenture and Microsoft worked closely with Unilever to future proof Unilever’s operations and move to the cloud. This was one of the largest and most complex cloud migrations in the consumer goods industry. This move has not only helped ensure resilient, secure and optimised operations for Unilever but also provides a platform to drive innovation and growth. With Azure as its primary cloud platform, Unilever will be able to accelerate product launches, enhance customer service and improve operational efficiency. Additionally, the move to Azure aligns with Unilever’s sustainability commitment by helping the company to build on the progress towards curbing carbon emissions.

CEO Lifetime Achievement Award

2022 Winner: Mark Read, WPP

The relationship between Unilever and WPP goes back more than 100 years. It is older than either company – having started when JWT partnered with Lever Brothers back in 1902. WPP remains a critical partner to Unilever. Since taking on the role of CEO almost five years ago, Mark has taken WPP to new heights. Last year, for the second year running, the agency was the most awarded company at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – which included 14 Lions for work done on Unilever brands.

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Becoming a Unilever supplier

Any individual, business, or organisation wanting to partner with us needs to go through our Unilever Supplier Qualification System (USQS).

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