Unilever’s hygiene brand domestos to break taboo of the loo

London/Rotterdam, 19 November 2012 – Unilever, through its leading hygiene brand Domestos, today – World Toilet Day - announced new initiatives to raise awareness for the global sanitation crisis.

Domestos Toilet Academy

The Domestos Toilet Academy people in setting up their own business to source, sell and maintain toilets as a sustainable and long-term approach to improving sanitation.

Domestos Toilet Academy logo

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‘Toilets for Health’, a white paper by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Domestos, gives new insights in the sanitation crisis. In Ho Chi Minh City the first Domestos Toilet Academy was opened and in London an interactive statue ‘The Public Toilet’ was revealed. The United Nations has declared access to sanitation a basic human right, yet almost a third of the world’s population suffer from a lack of access to improved sanitation. Unilever, under its Sustainable Living Plan, has committed to helping more than one billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.

The white paper ‘Toilets for Health” highlights how improved sanitation could greatly reduce diseases such as diarrhoea, which results in at least 1.1 million deaths of children under five every year. Also, the report provides an overview of the main diseases linked to poor sanitation which include cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A&E and many parasitic diseases. The paper revealed: 

  • Improved sanitation & handwashing facilities have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities for young girls; 

  • Up to 443 million school days are lost every year due to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related diseases; 

  • Diarrhoea causes under nutrition, it also reduces a child’s resistance to subsequent infections creating a vicious circle of malnutrition & infection.

Every year, 6.9 million children die before they reach their fifth birthday. A third of these deaths are caused by diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia – both can be significantly reduced through improving access to sanitation and promoting handwashing with soap. The World Health Organisation estimates a rate of return of $3-34 for each $1 invested in water and sanitation, depending on the context and system adopted. However, investment in water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries is minimal compared to other sectors of public spending, and the share of investment going to water, sanitation and hygiene has actually fallen over the last 15 years1.

Sanitation is often described as, ‘the Last Taboo’. Unilever hopes that raising awareness of the issue through World Toilet Day(Link opens in a new window) will go some way to breaking this taboo. To reach the Millennium Development Goal(Link opens in a new window) (MDG) on sanitation in 2015, more than 120 million people will need to gain access to improved sanitation every year between now and then. One of the key reasons why the MDG for sanitation is lagging furthest behind is the relative reluctance to talk about it.

Sean Gogarty, Senior Vice President Household Care Unilever said; “By consolidating the knowledge available about improvements that can be made to people’s lives by the simple use provision of a clean, safe toilet, real action can be driven to help address this crisis.”

“Domestos is Unilever’s leading toilet hygiene brand, and has been committed to helping protect families from germs for more than 80 years. As such, the brand is uniquely positioned to address the sanitation crisis. That is why we’re working with global partners to plan sustainable sanitation strategies that will make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people around the world.”

“Finding sanitation solutions that solve these problems is one of the most complex issues in the world today and one that we at Unilever are committed to helping solve. Finding the solution will require collaborative working, bringing together the best brains in Public Health, Science, Engineering, Business and Communications.”

First Domestos Toilet Academy opened in Vietnam

Without toilets, untreated human waste can have significant consequences for whole communities, affecting many aspects of daily life and ultimately posing a serious risk to health. It is reported that every year more children die from diarrhoea-related disease than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This situation could be solved simply by providing improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Unilever is also pioneering an innovative approach to the provision of sanitation, through its continued partnership with the World Toilet Organization, to launch the world’s first Domestos Toilet Academy in Vietnam. This academy will provide the business skills and training necessary for local entrepreneurs to source and supply latrines to their local communities – providing jobs and a boost to the economy, and at the same time promoting the importance of safe and hygienic sanitation. The Toilet Academy programme aims to be a sustainable and long-term solution to sanitation that benefits local society and helps stimulate local economy.

Dr Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health Vietnam said: “Currently, many countries, including Vietnam, are still facing lots of difficulties and challenges.  Challenges of globalization as well as environmental pollution, population growth and urbanization have impacted the sanitation crisis. In Vietnam, the Government has put strong emphasis on stimulating and promoting the “Patriotic Hygiene Movement" to mobilize all management agencies, organizations at all levels and entire nation to join hands in improving hygiene and sanitation as this is essential in the current context.”

“The active participation of businesses like Unilever, helping improve health and hygiene for communities is greatly appreciated and widely acknowledged. The launch of the Toilet Academy clearly demonstrates Unilever's enormous effort and will positively contribute to improve sanitary conditions for Vietnamese people.”

Everyone can help to break the Taboo of the Loo

In addition, to further raise awareness amongst consumers, Domestos has commissioned “The Public Toilet”, a 4.5m high interactive statue which will be installed for five days around World Toilet Day, next to the iconic Tower Bridge landmark in London. Everyone will be able to upload a short video of their face via www.thepublictoilet.com(Link opens in a new window), which will be broadcast onto the face of the statue. This activity aims to highlight the indignity faced by 1.1 billion people around the world who are forced to practice open defecation, the sanitation practice that poses the greatest threat to health.  

Working with others to achieve the MDGs

To make a step change to try to solve the global sanitation crisis, Unilever is working with others to create innovative and sustainable solutions. Some examples were announced today. Unilever’s commitment to sanitation is also demonstrated through the Unilever Foundation and Domestos’ support of UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation programme.  In this first year of this partnership, UNICEF will result in an estimated 400,000 people living in open defecation free communities across nine countries:  Gambia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Vietnam.

In September this year, Unilever joined the UN’s Every Woman Every Child campaign to save the lives of women and children across the world through tackling deadly diseases such as diarrhoea. All these partnerships are focused to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation set by United Nations.

Chris Williams, the Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council(Link opens in a new window), operating within the United Nations system, says: “World Toilet Day is the perfect occasion to see toilets in a new light: as a motor for economic development. Studies show that each dollar invested in sanitation generates good return. This investment potential is lost, however, on the one in three people in the world who dream of what the rest of us take for granted: a clean toilet. For countries, and individuals, sanitation is one of the best investments to be made.”

1http://www.wateraid.org/documents/off-track-off-target.pdf(Link opens in a new window)

ENDS

More information, please contact:

Unilever    
Flip Dötsch    
Flip.Dotsch@unilever.com(Link opens in a new window)
+31 (0) 10 217 3715  
+31 (0) 6 11375464

Or
Jon Shaw    Emma Kirby
jonathan@saltlondon.com(Link opens in a new window)emma@saltlondon.com(Link opens in a new window)
+44 208 870 6777

Getty Images will be attending the opening of the first Toilet Academy and photo’s will be made available to your photo desk.

About World Toilet Day:

World Toilet Day is observed annually on 19 November. This international day of action aims to break the taboo around toilets and raise awareness of the global sanitation crisis and lack of access to clean toilets. . In addition, it supports advocacy that highlights the profound impact of the sanitation crisis, and seeks to bring to the forefront the health, emotional and economic consequences the poor endure as a result of inadequate sanitation.World Toilet Day was created in 2001 by social entrepreneur, Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO). Domestos was the first ever sponsor of World Toilet Day, and has been in partnership with the World Toilet Organization since 2009. This year, Domestos, the World Toilet Organization and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council are joining forces and are encouraging different groups such as media, development organizations, the private sector and civil society to advocate and take action for safe toilets. World Toilet Day is now celebrated globally with independently organized events. http://www.worldtoiletday.org(Link opens in a new window)

Safe Harbour

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