Unilever will consider providing early payment to agencies and other small and medium-sized suppliers that may be struggling with financial liquidity, as part of a range of measures designed to help fight against the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company has not specified which kinds of suppliers would be targeted for support through early payment, but a spokeswoman said: "We have a range of financial-support mechanisms and will deploy those that best support the particular needs of our most vulnerable suppliers on a case-by-case basis." It will also extend credit to selected small-scale retailers that rely on Unilever for their business.
In addition, Unilever is contributing €100m to help resist the spread of the virus, including a product donation of soaps and sanitisers worth at least €50m to the Covid Action Platform of the World Economic Forum, which is supporting global health organisations and agencies with their response to the emergency. The business will also adapt its manufacturing lines to produce santiser for use in hospitals, schools and other institutional settings.
Unilever chief executive Alan Jope said: "The world is facing its greatest trial in decades. We have seen the most incredible response from the Unilever team so far, especially those on the front line of our operations in factories, distribution centres and stores.
"We hope that our donation will make a significant contribution towards protecting people’s lives, and that by helping to safeguard our workers’ incomes and jobs, we are giving some peace of mind during these uncertain times. Our strong cash flow and balance sheet mean that we can, and should, give this additional support."
Unilever is also utilising its brands in fighting both the spread of the virus and its social consequences.
Antibacterial soap brand Lifebuoy has taken the unusual step of naming its competitors in digital, print, TV and in-store ads running in some countries that encourage people to use any appropriate brand of soap.
The work features the line: "Please use the soap nearest to you. Not just Lifebuoy but any soap like Dettol, Lux or Hamam."
PG Tips, meanwhile, is supporting Re-engage, a charity that works with older people living alone. As well as making a cash donation that will support 2,000 volunteers to make virtual and telephone visits, the brand is providing paid social media for Re-engage on Facebook and Twitter.
Unilever said it was working with the government, NHS and industry partners in the UK to get food and essential products to the most vulnerable. It is donating seven lorryloads of products to existing food bank and charity partners.
Sebastian Munden, Unilever’s general manager, UK and Ireland, said: "As the situation has escalated in the UK and Ireland, we will be doing what we can to work with our industry partners, government, the NHS and our existing charities to support the most vulnerable people, both by making product donations and by using our brands to reach key audiences".