Unilever clicks
Photo: SANews

Unilever Southern Africa has agreed to collaborate with the Department of Small Business Development to increase investment in small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) development.

“Unilever [has] already identified input materials which can be manufactured locally and committed to work with the department to build the capability of SMMEs, particularly black, women and youth-owned, and those owned by people with disability, to participate meaningfully in this manufacturing,” the department said on Wednesday.

Other commitments include increased SMME access to Unilever’s third-party manufacturing, logistics platforms and SMME products ‘route to market’ assistance.

Unilever CEO Luc-Olivier Marquet made the commitment during a recent meeting with the Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

The meeting followed the publication of a racially offensive advert on the Clicks website by Unilever hair brand, TRESemmé.

“Unilever has since also set up an advisory board with internal and external experts to review how Unilever hair care products in South Africa can offer consumers the solutions they want in positive and empowering terms.

“Working with the new advisory board, Unilever will develop programmes to deliver immediate support to Black hair stylists and small professional salons.

“It was noted that although 95% of Unilever products sold in South Africa are manufactured within the country, the bulk of the input materials for such manufacturing are imports, which significantly dilutes the benefits to South Africa in the Unilever supply value chain,” the department said.

Ntshavheni said the current R80 million Enterprise Development Fund of Unilever is not sufficient for SMME development. However, she accepted that if commitments on value chain participation made by Unilever are fulfilled, it will improve this contribution.

The department undertook to also use its existing support mechanisms to accelerate the qualification of SMMEs to participate in the Unilever value chains, such mechanisms include the Manufacturing Support Scheme, and fast-tracked certification of products with the relevant standards bodies.

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 Minister accepted the offer by Unilever to partner 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.

Clicks Group in Transformation Talks

Clicks Group’s CEO and representatives also met this week with Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to discuss the group’s transformation agenda following the advert.

In her opening remarks, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane expressed her shock and disappointment at the deeply offensive advert that portrayed black women’s hair as inferior to that of white women’s hair by using and labelling images of various types of hair along racial lines.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane went on to add that while the advert irresponsibly reinforced racist tropes of the inferiority of ‘black beauty,’ it also has a damaging impact on black women who must continue to struggle for their humanity on a daily basis due to multiple layers of structural racism and sexism that still exists in the country.

Clicks Group CEO Vikesh Ramsunder, took the opportunity to appreciate the engagement with government and stakeholders to improve on its commitments and to be held to higher levels of professionalism as a responsible retailer in South Africa.

“This incident has allowed me as the head of the organisation to look deeper within the organisation to see what else can be accelerated, or what else can be done,” Ramsunder said.

The focus of the meeting was Clicks Group’s appetite for the socio-economic empowerment of women, youth and persons with disabilities.

“My responsibility is to monitor the implementation of all laws of this country that seeks to redress the imbalances of the past for these sectors and ensure that the public and private sectors complies in order for us a nation to reach that generation equality goal of 50-50 by 2030,” the Minister said.

Group Human Resources Director for Clicks Group, Bertina Engelbrecht, made a presentation on how the organisation was working towards transforming its workforce, improving on training, its work on gender-based violence, responding to sexual harassment in the workplace and the group’s commitment to the public health agenda.

In her closing remarks, Director General for The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Advocate Mikateko Joyce Maluleke, proposed a follow up meeting to look at opportunities for partnership to ensure women, youth and persons with disabilities form part of Clicks Group’s transformation agenda. – SAnews.gov.za