Poor hygiene, lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation are the cause of millions of preventable deaths.
These issues are closely interconnected. Evidence shows that individuals will be healthier and communities more productive if they have access to clean water and better sanitation and if they adopt improved hygiene practices.
Using our products to improve hygiene and well-being
Unilever brands can play an important role here. We make effective, affordable products that improve health, hygiene and well-being. As one of the world’s leading consumer goods companies, we can use our expertise in marketing and delivering campaigns to reach large, diverse populations and achieve a lasting impact on everyday behaviors.
One brand which demonstrates this is Lifebuoy soap. It is also one of Unilever’s fastest-growing brands – it has achieved double digit-growth over 2010-12. It is a good example of how brands that help to address social challenges can build brand equity and grow their business.
We have made good progress towards our goal. Lifebuoy and Dove have extended existing partnerships and developed new ones. Our oral care brands are set to meet their target much earlier than planned. We have also gained a better understanding of the impact of our handwashing programs.
We have started to explore how we can develop a more systematic approach to water, sanitation and hygiene issues by piloting a sanitation program between our Domestos toilet cleaner brand and partners UNICEF and the World Toilet Organization. This will enable us to take a more systematic approach to improving health through a concerted effort around clean water, sanitation and hygiene in future.
The biggest challenge we face across all our targets is to scale-up programs cost-effectively. Forming the right partnerships with governments, NGOs and other experts is helping us. But to reach our ambitious targets, we need to move faster to widespread implementation.
Lifebuoy targets countries with high child mortality
During 2012 Lifebuoy launched handwashing programs in seven new countries: Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Our behavior change programs are now running in 16 countries, reaching eight of the top ten countries most affected by child mortality.
A lower-cost model for our schools' programs
Lifebuoy has ambitious plans to scale up the reach of its school hygiene promotion programs in Africa. However, in some countries the brand has been launched or re-introduced only recently and is still a relatively small brand. A multi-brand program is more cost-efficient and is an opportunity to connect people to more of our brands that have a social impact.
Our Central African business and Lifebuoy have piloted a program with our C lose Up toothpaste and Blue Band margarine brands in Nigeria and an external partner, D.lite, which produces solar lanterns to enable children to do homework after dark.
The 21-day program uses multiple classroom contacts to help children practise new behaviors: handwashing with soap, brushing teeth day and night, and eating well. We have been able to reduce our cost per contact significantly by sharing costs across brands. The program has huge potential for roll-out in other countries in Africa. Schools, governments and NGOs support this approach as, by promoting a number of healthy behaviors together, it has the potential to deliver significant health impact at lower cost.
Domestos tackles sanitation crisis
More than 2,000 children die every day from diarrhea, which is linked, among other things, to a lack of clean toilets for over 2 billion people worldwide.
In November 2012, Domestos and our partner, the World Toilet Organization, opened the world’s first ‘Domestos toilet academies’ in Vietnam, the first stage in a global program to train local entrepreneurs to set up hygienic toilet businesses.
The academies leverage the ’SaniShop’ business model developed and proven by the World Toilet Organization in Cambodia. Training local entrepreneurs to supply latrines, toilet cleaner and sanitation education is an innovative market-based model which creates demand for improved sanitation within local communities and provides jobs.
Our Five Levers for Change Model
Encouraging people to adopt new behaviors is essential if we are to achieve our goals.
Underpinning our approach is our model of behavior change, Unilever’s Five Levers for Change – a set of principles which, if applied consistently, increases the likelihood of creating a lasting impact.
We first used this model to develop our behavior change programs with Lifebuoy soap and our oral care brands. We have learned a great deal through our health and hygiene campaigns and we are now applying the methodology to improve our performance in other areas, for example we are using it to understand how we can motivate consumers to reduce their salt intake.