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Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition

School children washing their hands at an outdoor fountain

The Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC)

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Unilever and the UK government established a public–private partnership which has now reached over 1.2 billion people with hygiene awareness messages, products, infrastructure and education.

Back in 1894, Unilever helped to improve hygiene with Lifebuoy soap during the cholera epidemic that was sweeping across Victorian England. 126 years later, Unilever is helping to stem the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic with hygiene interventions. Through the Hygiene and Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) created by Unilever and the UK government, Lifebuoy and Domestos, alongside other Unilever hygiene brands, have helped to reach over 1.2 billion people with hygiene behaviour programmes and awareness campaigns.

“Our business has a century-long history of promoting hygiene through our brands, but this unprecedented crisis called for an unprecedented response,” says Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever.

Handwashing and hygiene: the backbone of the fight against Covid-19

Handwashing and hygiene are two of the most effective, affordable and easiest ways to help reduce the spread of germs. It was with the aim of helping as many people as possible adopt good hygiene habits that the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Unilever jointly launched the £100 million global partnership effort in March 2020.

World map with countries participating in the hygiene and behaviour change coalition highlighted

Map of all 37 HBCC Countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, DRC, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Myanmar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Since then, Unilever, with its expertise in hygiene behaviour change and mass media communications, has worked with 21 NGOs and UN partners via the multi-award winning HBCC partnership to implement on-ground programmes and run mass media campaigns, aimed at raising hygiene awareness and teaching hygiene principles.

Unilever’s hygiene brands Domestos and Lifebuoy have a long history of hygiene programming. The HBCC projects have been established using these existing evidence-based programmes, benefiting from proven behaviour-change methodology.

HBCC hygiene campaign: Hands–Face–Space–Surface

Unilever also led the creation of a bespoke hygiene campaign for the coalition: Hands–Face–Space–Surface. The campaign teaches and reminds people of the importance of key hygiene behaviours in the fight against Covid-19. It has been translated into more than 30 languages and aired in over 18 countries.

Graphic explaining the Hand Face Space Surface instructions for COVID hygiene

Through HBCC initiatives, hundreds of thousands of handwashing stations have been installed around the world and over 260,000 community health workers and teachers have been trained to deliver information on the importance of correct hygiene practice. More than 78 million Unilever hygiene products, including Domestos bleach and Lifebuoy soap and hand sanitiser, have also been donated and distributed in over 60 countries.

A school student washing their hands at a portable hand washing station

Credit: WaterAid Zambia

Reaching those most in need

The HBCC was designed to reach populations and communities whose living conditions increased their susceptibility to contracting Covid-19 and other infectious disease. NGO and UN partners were selected based on their experience and expertise in delivering programmes to vulnerable communities, like refugees.

Working with partners such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has allowed the HBCC to establish specialist programmes that can effectively support people living through some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, including in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Over 30 million Unilever hygiene products have been donated to UNHCR for direct distribution to refugee communities.

The power of public–private collaboration

Of course, the huge scope and the quick deployment of the HBCC programme would not have been possible without the close collaboration of the public and private sectors. Unilever’s partnership with the FCDO, supported by academic experts in behaviour change and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), represents the UK’s largest public–private partnership established to help slow the spread of the virus in vulnerable countries.

“Public–private partnership has been critical, allowing us to leverage the influence, expertise and networks of both government and business, and our strong network of NGO and UN partners, at home and overseas. We’re pleased to work together with partners to implement initiatives to address the pandemic at scale,” says Rebecca Marmot, Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Hygiene remains critical in the time to come

Experts agree that hygiene, alongside free and universal vaccination programmes, will continue to be of fundamental importance in the long-term response to Covid-19. Continued focus on hygiene is especially important where vaccines are not yet available. For countries that are cautiously eyeing post-pandemic life, maintaining focus on hygiene will be vital in helping people continue to live happy, healthy lives.

We know that there are large inequalities in access to hygiene and sanitation. Three in ten people do not have access to soap and water in their homes, and one in three healthcare facilities does not have access to hand hygiene where care is provided. It is our hope that one silver lining from this crisis may be recognition at a much greater scale of the vital role hygiene plays in health.

Hygiene remains critical in the time to come
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HBCC Case Studies

HBCC Case Studies (3 items)

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To find out more about specific programmes click on the partner logos below:

ActionAid

actionaid logo

ActionAid are working to reach eight million people in Kenya and Nepal, with a focus on supporting women and girls.

The organization is using mass media and digital channels to raise awareness of the hygiene behaviours that can help people protect themselves against COVID-19. Action Aid has also been repairing safe water sources to ensure communities have access to clean water for handwashing. In addition, ActionAid has been using its networks to give out tens of thousands of soap and surface cleaning products donated by Unilever to the communities where they are needed most. By taking a community-led approach Action Aid are working with local women leaders on secondary impacts of the pandemic, including domestic violence.

AGA Khan Foundation

AGA Khan logo

AKF primarily works with rural, at-risk communities across six Indian states, providing critical information on how to improve and sustain hygiene behaviours. By using simple tools such as wall paintings and posters, and by working through local groups AKF are able to spread hygiene and health messages to remote communities.

They are also supporting the government in creating better access to clean toilet, handwashing and drinking water facilities. AKF is doing this by building soap-banks and handwashing stations in community spaces such centres for children and healthcare facilities.

AMREF

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Amref are working with local partners to support the governments of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to promote hygiene behaviour change to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections. They are aiming to reach 52 million people, with a particular focus on helping people with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

Amref are promoting effective hygiene behaviors mass media, digital and social media communication. They are also using alternative and engaging ways to communicate, like sharing hygiene messages in a popular puppet show for children, and delivering interactive learning on mobile devices.

BBC Media Action

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BBC Media Action is driving long-term change in handwashing and hygiene behaviours across Afghanistan and Somalia, while also tackling issues such as stigma and discrimination that can act as a barrier to these behavioural changes.

With over 20 years of health communication experience, as well as considerable expertise in the use of mass media channels, BBC Media Action is a leader in the use of digital tools to encourage behavioural change that can have a direct impact on public health outcomes. Supported by high-quality BBC production values, BBC Media Action’s resources attract and engage wide audiences across the world.

brac

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BRAC are working in collaboration with the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) to reach 10 million people across Bangladesh and help change their hygiene practices.

As well as setting up handwashing stations across Bangladesh, BRAC is encouraging long-term behaviour change through a communications strategy in two stages. First, they use mass media and digital communications to share simple messages around hygiene, social distancing and environmental practice. These messages are then followed up during in-person communications activities that are aiming to convert the newly adopted hygiene behaviors they learned from the mass media communication into long-term personal habits and social norms.

care

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CARE International UK is working with governments and local influential actors to reach vulnerable people across Rwanda, Somalia, Zimbabwe, North Eastern Syria, and Jordan to minimise the transmission and damaging impact of COVID-19.

Through mass and digital media campaigns and face-to-face interactions they are providing critical, inclusive and gender-sensitive messages about COVID-19 prevention measures. By answering questions and concerns at a grassroots level and opening up a community dialogue, CARE is hoping to encourage positive behaviour change whilst quelling the potentially negative impact of rumours and stigmatisation surrounding transmission of COVID-19.

German Cooperation

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In Indonesia and the Philippines, GIZ is working with Domestos to help prepare schools to safely reopen and continue to be safe spaces during and beyond the pandemic.

GIZ is doing this by designing scalable pandemic preparedness and response measures, including information packages on hand hygiene, surface cleaning and disinfection procedures. These packages are being tested and shared with the Ministries of Education in both countries to ensure pandemic preparedness is integrated across the education system, encouraging a higher rate of compliance in schools.

IRC

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The IRC's hygiene promotion programme directly supports nearly three million refugees and people that have been displaced from their homes across Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar, with a particular focus on women and girls.

Using mass communication channels such as radio, TV and social media IRC is promoting good handwashing habits, giving out hygiene kits with products such as soap, hand sanitizers and surface cleaners, and encouraging people to make use of handwashing facilities and sanitisers to keep their hands clean, use face masks and keep a safe distance in public places.

IRC Wash

IRC wash

In Burkina Faso poor hygiene practices and little access to clean water and handwashing facilities play a major role in diseases spreading.

To combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country IRC WASH are using its networks and expertise to quickly deliver hand hygiene and surface hygiene messages to 3.6 million people across two key regions. Since March 2020, their social media campaign has helped raise awareness of COVID-19 protection measures and they have worked with government and local utilities companies to ensure that people in rural communities have access to government-funded water, sanitation and hygiene services.

LSHTM

lshtm logo

The IRC's hygiene promotion programme directly supports nearly three million refugees and people that have been displaced from their homes across Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar, with a particular focus on women and girls.

Using mass communication channels such as radio, TV and social media IRC is promoting good handwashing habits, giving out hygiene kits with products such as soap, hand sanitizers and surface cleaners, and encouraging people to make use of handwashing facilities and sanitisers to keep their hands clean, use face masks and keep a safe distance in public places.

Oxfam

Oxfam logo

Oxfam is working to improve the hygiene and health behaviours of over 2.5 million people across Nepal and the Philippines, helping to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, while also promoting positive gender norms through their activities.

Working together with local authorities Oxfam is helping to improve better handwashing behaviours at a community level.

Oxfam is also giving out hygiene kits with products such as soap, hand sanitizers and surface cleaners and setting up handwashing facilities across communities. They are training local volunteers on good surface hygiene to safely clean public spaces and teach these practices to local retailers, vendors and shop keepers.

PLAN International

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COVID-19 is making it harder for young women and girls to protect themselves and their families which is why Plan International in Sierra Leone is using digital and mass media channels to share messages about safe hygiene practices. They are also providing soap and other hygiene products to help people practice these hygiene habits.

In addition to this, Plan International works closely with the elderly, people with disabilities and their carers to ensure their concerns are being heard and hygiene messages are adapted to their needs.

PSI

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COVID-19 is making it harder for young women and girls to protect themselves and their families which is why Plan International in Sierra Leone is using digital and mass media channels to share messages about safe hygiene practices. They are also providing soap and other hygiene products to help people practice these hygiene habits.

In addition to this, Plan International works closely with the elderly, people with disabilities and their carers to ensure their concerns are being heard and hygiene messages are adapted to their needs.

Save the Children

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Save the Children is combatting the spread of COVID-19 by improving the hygiene and handwashing practices of those who have little access to water and hygiene facilities, helping children and their families stay save from infection.

The programme has already surpassed its original aim of reaching over 40 million people across nine countries: Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Yemen.

Sesame Workshop

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Sesame Workshop is creating video, print and digital educational material for children and their parents with messages on how to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and diminish the impact of the virus on families in Jordan and Syria.

Sesame Workshop uses its experience of creating educational messages featuring well-known Sesame Street characters to share important hygiene behaviour messages in a fun and entertaining way.

SNV

SNV logo

SNV is working in Mozambique and Indonesia on creating tailored COVID-19 prevention messages for women, people with disabilities, school children, frontline workers and cleaners working in schools and public spaces such as transport hubs and markets.

They are using a wide variety of channels and methods to get the message out to as many people as possible.

Unicef

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UNICEF are working closely with governments in 20 countries (Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, DRC, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kiribati, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe) to promote good hygiene and help tackle COVID-19.

UNHCR

UNHCR logo

UNHCR is working to limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst refugees in the Democratic of Congo, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Cameroon. They are doing this by sharing messages on good hygiene behaviors, social distancing and the importance of mask wearing through different mass media and social media channels, working with local communities and health workers, local volunteers and religious leaders. They have also given out hygiene products such as soap and hand sanitisers to help people clean their hands.

WaterAid

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WaterAid is working in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zambia aiming to reach over 70 million people. Working closely with government, schools, healthcare centres and places of worship the organisation is delivering important handwashing education messages.

World Vision

World Vision logo

World Vision is promoting preventative measures to stop and slow the spread of COVID-19, working closely with families and wider communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By equipping trusted community leaders, multi-faith leaders and community care workers with life-saving messaging on how to respond to COVID-19, World Vision is able to help many vulnerable households.

World Vision is also giving out handwashing kits with products such as soap, hand sanitizers and surface cleaners to families and are using mass media to share important hygiene messages with an aim to reach six million people.

WSUP

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WSUP is working in Kenya and Ghana to help low-income people in cities protect themselves and their communities against COVID-19. They are using social media, local radio and television to share information on good hygiene behaviours such as handwashing, keeping social distance and wearing masks. WSUP is collaborating with government, utility companies and community organisation to ensure this information is accessible to is people with disabilities, the elderly and other marginalised groups.

The organisation is also helping people gain access to safe water and facilities to wash their hands, and are providing Personal Protective Equipment like masks and gloves to frontline workers.