Unilever partners with government to support SMMEs
Following the publication of a racially offensive advert on the Clicks website by Unilever hair brand TRESemmé, the personal care and foods products company has committed to partnering with the Department of Small Business Development (DoSBD) to increase investment in small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) development.
The commitment was made on September 18, according to a joint statement issued by Unilever CEO Luc-Olivier Marquet and DoSBD minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni on September 23.
Earlier in September Clicks saw many of its stores shut down and damaged after hundreds of people joined a protest led by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) after the racial advert surfaced on social media.
“We were shocked to discover that we had supplied images for the Clicks website that portrayed black hair as inferior,” said Marquet. “This was racist and we apologise unreservedly. We immediately began an investigation to understand what happened.
“At the same time, we began reviewing all the marketing campaigns and images in our South Africa portfolio to make sure they match our commitment to celebrate all beauty and promote diversity and inclusion.”
Marquet acknowledged that the incident had accelerated the need for the diversity and inclusion agenda in corporate South Africa and the pivotal role it has in boosting black businesses.
He said that following the outcry, an advisory board with internal and external experts was set up to review how Unilever hair care products in the country can offer consumers the solutions they want in positive and empowering terms.
Unilever, together with this board, will develop programmes to deliver immediate support to black hairstylists and small professional salons.
The company noted that although 95% of Unilever products sold in SA are manufactured locally, the bulk of the input materials for such manufacturing are imported – which significantly dilutes the benefits to South Africa in the Unilever supply value chain.
Minister Ntshavheni urged the company to strengthen its localisation programme in manufacturing.
The company indicated that it has already identified input materials that could be manufactured locally and has committed to working with the department to build the capability of SMMEs – in particular those with black, women, youth and persons with disability ownership – to enable them to participate meaningfully in this manufacturing.
It says it will do this by increasing SMME access to Unilever’s third-party manufacturing, logistics platforms and SMME products route-to-market assistance.
Ntshavheni pointed out Unilever’s current R80 million Enterprise Development Fund is not sufficient for SMME development but accepted that if the commitments on value chain participation made by Unilever are fulfilled, this will improve its contribution.
The DoSBD will use its existing support mechanisms such as its Manufacturing Support Scheme as well as fast-tracked certification of products with relevant standards bodies to accelerate the qualification of SMMEs to participate in the Unilever value chain.
Black hair stylists and small professional salons supported
The department will partner with Unilever’s programme to support black hair stylists and small professional salons through its programmes to support informal and micro personal care services.
The DoSBD will also partner with Unilever on the Spaza and General Dealers Support programme to ensure the success of spaza shops as the next frontier for convenience shopping in townships and rural areas.
A team has been appointed to oversee the progress and implementation of the agreed steps.
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