Unilever Vietnam leads the way in gender equality and women's empowerment

October 27, 2021 | 13:00
Unilever Vietnam becoming the winner of the 2021 WEPs Awards for “Gender-responsive Marketplace” and achieving significant results are a testament to the company’s and its brands’ efforts to promote gender equality in the past more than 25 years. VIR talked with Trinh Mai Phuong, Unilever Vietnam’s vice president of human resources, about the journey to empower women and promote gender equality at Unilever.

What does women’s economic empowerment mean in your organisation?

We want to be an inclusive business that contributes to creating a more inclusive world regardless of gender, age, race or ability – a world in which every woman and girl can build the kind of life she wishes to lead, unrestrained by harmful social norms and stereotypes.

To achieve this commitment, we have taken a wide range of actions on women’s empowerment within our company, across our value chain, and spreading out over the whole society, especially women’s economic empowerment.

It is observed that access to economic resources and opportunities is usually hindered by discrimination and persistent gender inequalities. Once women have been economically empowered, they could not only take the lead in their life and drive changes in the community but also underpin long-term gender equality.

Therefore, women’s economic empowerment is the key for Unilever Vietnam to accomplish our social commitments, not just gender equity but other sustainable goals, such as improving people’s health and wellbeing, and raising living standards as well.

Unilever Vietnam leads the way in gender equality and women's empowerment

Can you share about your winning gender equality initiative and its impacts?

The goal of promoting gender equality has always been integrated in Unilever’s sustainable development strategies since the first days of our presence in Vietnam. On that journey, we made significant progress.

Women’s empowerment, the driver of gender equality, was embedded in Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan in 2010-2020 and has generated remarkable results. We helped 3.7 million women with training on improved health, hygiene, and well-being practices, 50,000 households to get access to micro-financing, and 1,000 women to access training and skills, and funding for business startups with VND242 billion ($) invested.

Unilever Vietnam leads the way in gender equality and women's empowerment
Unilever Vietnam’s gender equality agenda through women empowerment

We are also applying a gender lens to our community programmes, marketing, and advertising activities led by our purposeful brands.

Specifically, Sunlight with the “Women do business” community programme in cooparetion with the Vietnam Women’s Union, commenced in 2020 to support 1 million women to do business by 2025 through a number of activities to inspire entrepreneurship, offer training and building capacity and knowledge, financial assistance, and consult and accompany them across their journeys.

Our brand Sunsilk and its respective campaign “Dreams too good to hold back” have inspired young, career-driven girls to follow their dream jobs without any hesitation caused by society’s existing gender biases.

Meanwhile, Dove’s campaign “My hair, my say” has become a confidante to share personal stories and experiences of individualism, inspiring women to feel positive and confident about their bodies while elimiting obsessions over external appearance cast upon them by social bias.

In our sustainable development journey with Unilever Compass in the new decade, we head to the commitment of empowering 1 million women to achieve more in life in the next five years. To get there, we have focused on three key pillars with specific action plans, including: expanding economic opportunities for women; enhancing women’s status at workplace and pursuit of professional career; and removing harmful stereotypes that are barriers to females’ achievements.

How can the private sector lead on SDG 5 and help promote change in business?

The private sector plays a larger and more ambitious role in sustainability-focused activities to deliver the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

First, with our purposeful brands as a force for good with nationwide penetration, as well as our capacity for innovation and rapid scaling of new solutions, we can massively raise people’s awareness of gender equality through our creative campaigns with bold messages, accelerating innovative channels such as e-commerce or omnichannel.

Besides, we could leverage our network of thousands of employees, tens of thousands of small-a and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and retailers in our value chain, as well as tens of millions of consumers nationwide to showcase our best practices and send our firm call to action so that we could influence social norms and behaviours towards gender equality.

Moreover, we also set up close collaborations with governmental partners and NGOs to set out key priorities and implement community programmes that will benefit millions of people in society.

Unilever Vietnam leads the way in gender equality and women's empowerment
“Ms. Le Hong Nhi representing Unilever VN (Third from left) received the Trophy from Vietnam Women’s Union for the strategic partnership in National Program “Supporting women to start up” 2020.

All these efforts help Unilever Vietnam not only positively contribute to SDG5 but also create a new “Generation Equality”, where each woman and girl has the freedom to realise all of her rights – from creating and leading the life they wish to live, pursuing education or business to having a seat at the table in important decisions in their families and society.

Why did Unilever Vietnam decide to apply for the 2021 WEPs Awards?

Taking part in The WEPs Awards is a unique opportunity for us to showcase our sustainable strategies and specific actions towards achieving the gender equity commitment. We hope that our practices can become a source of motivation for other think-alike businesses and organisations, and vice versa, we can also study their practices, from which the business community will join hands to enhance gender-inclusive business cultures and promote women’s economic empowerment.

Unilever Vietnam leads the way in gender equality and women's empowerment
Le Hong Nhi representing Unilever Vietnam (in the middle) received the 2021 WEPs Award

Additionally, we believe that our efforts in gender equality promotion that we bring to the WEPs Awards also motivate and inspire our employees, partners, consumers, and the wider society to together take more actions on women’s empowerment and gender equality activities.

Unilever Vietnam’s efforts and achievements in driving gender equality

Unilever Vietnam’s efforts and achievements in driving gender equality

Through several campaigns and ceaseless efforts promoting gender equality, Unilever Vietnam has won the 2021 WEPs Awards for Gender-responsive Marketplace. This underpins the company's journey to empower women with the commitment of empowering one million Vietnamese women to achieve more in life by 2025.

By Mai Dang

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional