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Health and wellbeing Strategy and goals

We believe a more inclusive society will be a healthier one.

This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Clean water and sanitation

A holistic view of health and wellbeing

We believe physical and mental health, wellbeing and inclusion are crucial contributors to a wider view of what good health is. This became even more obvious as Covid-19 put increasing restrictions on our social connections and took its toll on wellbeing.

Young boy with curly hair runs water from a bathroom sink

Extending our reach

Taking the learnings from our groundbreaking Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (PDF 8.02MB) – through which we reached 1.3 billion people with our health and hygiene initiatives – we’ve defined how we can go further to deliver impactful programmes. We’re using our scale and reach, as well as the power of our brands, to develop deeper and more creative programmes and partnerships.

We’ve long run programmes across the world to educate children and parents about the importance of handwashing, especially in the early years. We support safe sanitation and good surface hygiene habits, whether people are at home, in school or at work. And we promote the importance of toothbrushing for self-care (helping the 3.9 billion people affected by tooth decay around the world). We’ve helped people build self-esteem and helped women get on the career ladder with skills and training.

By championing inclusion and tackling inequality, we’re underlining the importance of issues like racial equity and gender empowerment. That means taking an inclusive approach in the products we provide and in how we design our brand programmes. And it means we must treat everyone equally, by making sure we empower people and don’t exclude anyone on grounds of their race or gender.

Tackling these issues is at the heart of Positive Beauty, our new vision and strategy that champions a new era of beauty.

Equitable, inclusive, sustainable: a new era of beauty

Positive Beauty sets out several progressive commitments and actions for our Beauty & wellbeing and Personal Care (B&W and PC) brands, including Dove, Lifebuoy, Vaseline, Sunsilk and Smile. Through this strategy we’re championing a new era of beauty which is equitable and inclusive, as well as sustainable for the planet. It’s helping us drive the delivery of our new Unilever Compass goal on health and wellbeing.

Our health and wellbeing goal

Take action through our brands to improve health and wellbeing and advance equity and inclusion, reaching 1 billion people per year by 2030. We will focus on:

But it’s not only our B&W and PC brands that are taking action on health and wellbeing. For example, one of our largest Home Care brands, Domestos, is promoting access to clean, safe toilets to improve sanitation as part of our ambitious goal.

Our brands are taking the lead

We’re taking action on three fronts:

  • helping to end discrimination in beauty and champion inclusion, by challenging narrow beauty ideals and building a more inclusive portfolio of products which cater to a greater diversity of beauty
  • driving gender equity, including stepping up brand programmes, advocacy to challenge the status quo and unstereotyping advertising
  • improving health and wellbeing through existing educational initiatives in handwashing and oral hygiene and expanding into new areas, including physical health and mental wellbeing.

We’re leveraging the power of our communications, through tailored TV or radio campaigns, and through media partnerships (such as Dove’s Project #ShowUs). As one of the many actions we’re taking to challenge narrow beauty ideals, we’ll eliminate the word ‘normal’ from all our beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising – worldwide. It comes as global research into people’s experiences of the beauty industry reveals that using ‘normal’ to describe hair or skin makes most people feel excluded.

These brands are also committing to end all digital alterations that change a person’s body shape, size, proportions or skin colour, and to increase the number of ads portraying people from diverse, under-represented groups.

In 2021, the first year of our Unilever Compass goal, we reached around 700 million people through our brand communications and initiatives to help improve health and wellbeing and advance equity and inclusion.

Two pairs of hands washing under a village tap

Showing leadership

We use our expertise to develop innovative, affordable products that can help more people live healthier lives. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw that people were searching for sanitising laundry products to combat the virus, so we introduced OMO laundry sanitisers. But we know that products alone are not enough; people need to know how to use them effectively. During the pandemic for example, Lifebuoy created public service health campaigns to show people exactly how they needed to wash their hands with any soap – not just Lifebuoy soap – to combat the coronavirus.

Through our detailed research, we’ve shown that TV can be a powerful source of influence – especially on helping young people and new parents to form good habits early on. So we devote airtime to encouraging people to adopt healthy habits.

Across our business – from e-commerce to sourcing our palm oil sustainably – we’re transforming our practices using digital technologies. Health and hygiene is no exception. Backed by sound science, we’re using digital platforms to get our life-saving messages across to more people in timely, creative and cost-effective ways. Lifebuoy for instance, has started to offer free doctor teleconsultations on pack and through its communications while our Pepsodent toothpaste brand has trialled free WhatsApp dental consultations during Covid-19 restrictions. And we’re learning more and more about how to use text alerts and gaming to good effect.

We’re transforming our brands – not only unstereotyping our advertising, but also using our insights to create programmes such as Glow & Lovely Careers that empowers women with skills or Dove’s initiative on the CROWN Act to tackle deep-seated discrimination.

Partnerships are crucial to systemic change

By joining forces with others who share our ambitions – including governments, civil society and development agencies – we can have an even bigger impact. For many years, we’ve worked with partners to scale up our programmes and pilot new approaches.

Together with the UK government for example, we created the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition in response to Covid-19, bringing together many partners to reach 1.2 billion people. In the US, Dove co-founded the Crown Coalition in partnership with the National Urban League, Color Of Change, and Western Center on Law & Poverty to advance anti-hair discrimination legislation called the CROWN Act.

We continue to push for what’s right through groups like the Toilet Board Coalition and the Global Handwashing Partnership. Advocating policy changes at major world events like the UN General Assembly (UNGA), World Economic Forum and World Business Council for Sustainable Development also helps to accelerate change.

We want to transform the systems that hold individuals back by advocating new policies, laws and social norms that will promote health, wellbeing and greater inclusion for all members of society. Our aim is to drive positive change through our brands.