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Our employee health programme

Lamplighter is our global programme for assessing and improving four modifiable risk factors – physical health, exercise, nutrition and mental resilience.


Lamplighter is a core part of our Well-being Framework as it provides structure and guidance on how to develop strategic initiatives around physical and mental health. This means each of our country businesses can provide support to our employees in the most locally appropriate way, such as guidance on managing long-term health conditions, diabetes, HIV or musculoskeletal concerns.

Specific goals for Lamplighter include:

  • ensuring that Lamplighter is in place in all countries with 100 or more employees, which we aim to achieve by 2020
  • addressing local health risks and establishing local and national health improvement plans with partnerships between occupational health and our human resources and supply chain teams.

Independent recognition for Lamplighter


Global Healthy Workplace Award for the large enterprise category, Brazil


Global Multinational Healthy Workplace Award (global achievement)

People Investor Award, Russia

National Business Group on Health Award, North America


BUPA–Business in the Community Well-being Award – UK & Ireland

Special Corporate Health Award in the category of Healthy Nutrition – Germany

HR Professional and Boussias Communications Workplace Wellbeing Award – Greece 

Promoting mental well-being

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Estimated cost to the global economy of poor mental health by 20302

There is increasing recognition of the need for mental well-being. Its importance to individuals and to society as a whole cannot be overlooked. According to the World Health Organization1, depression is expected to be the leading disease burden globally by 2030.

For the first time, world leaders are recognizing the promotion of mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, as health priorities within the global development agenda. In 2015, mental health and substance abuse was included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda (within Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Health and Well-being). This is likely to have a positive impact on communities and countries where millions of people will receive much needed help.

While our business has long appreciated the value of a healthy workforce, today attitudes to mental health have changed radically. It’s become one of our top three health issues and is rightly high on the agenda across society too.

    1. 519584
    2. 1940
    3. Recognising the ‘human factor’
    4. 1940's Mental Health in Industry document

      The 1940s witness a growing concern for the ‘human factor’ in industry. In 1948 alone, we publish five major articles in our staff magazine on the mutual impact of intangibles such as happiness, contentment and satisfaction on staff productivity and the importance of mental, as opposed to merely physical, health.

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    1. 519586
    2. 1950
    3. New technologies, new techniques
    4. 1950s - 1960s cinema

      The popularity of film in the 1950s makes it possible to present information on a far greater scale than ever before imagined. We begin production of a series of educational films that our occupational health teams use to promote best practice and the prevention of ergonomic injury as we develop our thinking into the 1960s.

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    1. 519588
    2. 1970
    3. The new science of occupational health
    4. 1970s Unilever Medical services document

      Our staff magazines promote awareness of the importance of good mental health for employee well-being. They include numerous articles on the relationship between stress and cardiovascular health.

      And ‘time-zone fatigue’ and the impact of circadian rhythm disruption on stress levels also feature as the number of business travellers increases. Issues such as alcoholism and prescription drug abuse are touched on, while suggested remedies range from relaxation techniques to regular exercise.

      1978: We form our Medical Study Group. A report commissioned by Unilever’s leadership examines the need for in-country and international medical services and advice. It recommends that traditional clinical activities give way to a broader concept of occupational medicine as a distinct branch of medical science concerned with the inter-relationship of work and health. We introduce worldwide minimum standards of occupational health services.

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    1. 519590
    2. 1980
    3. Thinking afresh: integrating health and safety
    4. 1980s Unilever medical service

      1980: We establish our Safety, Health & Environment Advisory Committee to promote corporate policies and improve the effectiveness of occupational health and safety. The following year we rename Unilever Medical Service the Unilever Occupational Health Service, marking a shift in emphasis towards an integrated approach to strategic preventative measures.

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    1. 519592
    2. 1990
    3. Healthy workforce, healthy business
    4. 1990's Occupational Health Policy for Unilever employees

      1997: Our Leadership Executive reviews the role of our Occupational Health function in the light of changes in our organisational structure. Occupational health and safety is seen as having a central role to play in the creation of a healthy, fit and happy workforce through education and risk management.

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    1. 519594
    2. 2000
    3. Launching Lamplighter: worldwide health and well-being
    4. 2000s Lamplighter graphic

      2001: We introduce our Health, Well-being and Performance programme for senior leaders to boost their energy levels and help them manage their workloads and personal time.

      2005: We launch Lamplighter, our global health programme, to evaluate and provide physical and mental health support for our employees.

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    1. 519596
    2. 2010
    3. Understanding the cost of mental health – to individuals and society
    4. 2010s Unilever Sustainable Living targets

      2010: Lamplighter reaches 30 countries and becomes a target in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We commit to it reaching a total of 68 countries over 2012–2015.

      2011: The World Health Organization anticipates depression as the leading disease burden (PDF - 45.4kB) worldwide by 2030.

      2013: We establish Unilever’s first Mental Health programme, initiated in our UK and Ireland business.

      2014: We set up a Global Well-being Steering Team to guide the development of our well-being initiatives. We achieve our target for Lamplighter a year early, reaching 91,000 employees in 70 countries. Building on our momentum, we set a new Unilever Sustainable Living Plan target – the worldwide implementation of a mental well-being framework – which we complete in 2015.

      2015: Mental health is included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Health and Well-being. We introduce our Thrive well-being workshops to promote purpose alongside emotional, mental and physical health.

      2016: We start to mark World Mental Health Day across our business and become founding corporate partners of Heads Together in the UK, a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health.

      2017: We introduce People with Purpose workshops to help employees see meaning in their work and home life and improve their well-being – 10,000 people take part. Our Thrive workshops reach 50,000 employees (2015–2017) while Lamplighter reaches 75,000 employees across 74 countries.

      And our impact analysis (2008–2017) shows that for every €1 we spend on Lamplighter programmes, we see a return of €2.44, showing that good health is good for our people and good for our business.

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We’re committed to promoting mental health within our business, and beyond. In 2016 we became founding corporate partners of Heads Together in the UK, an initiative that combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health, with fundraising for a series of innovative mental health services. Twice a year, we promote mental health-specific communications for employees, including on World Mental Health Day in October.

Promoting the mental well-being of our employees is a vital element of our Lamplighter programme, which recognises that mental health is especially important in times of change or uncertainty. By listening and responding to the emotional needs of our employees, we give people a better chance of fulfilling their potential. We’ve identified four elements that need to be in place to promote mental health initiatives:

  • leadership and management
  • communication and culture
  • scoping resilience, managing pressure
  • support.

1 World Health Organisation, 2011 http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB130/B130_9-en.pdf (PDF | 48KB)

2 Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: a global return on investment analysis, The Lancet Psychiatry, 2016 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(16)30024-4/fulltext (PDF | 45KB)

A tectonic shift in attitudes to mental health

Dr Thirumilai Rajgopal

Dr Thirumilai Rajgopal – Dr Raj – is our Vice President of Global Medical and Occupational Health.

He recognises it’s crucial to support employees’ mental well-being.

“Asking for help is the most important thing individuals can do when it comes to mental health. That’s why we’ve put a strong emphasis on ensuring that our employees are aware of our support and resources on all aspects of their well-being, and how to contact our assistance programmes. We ensure that employees are only one conversation, one click or one call from the help and support they need.

Across society, we’re experiencing a tectonic shift in people’s attitudes to mental health and well-being as mental health is acknowledged as a serious and growing problem. Of course, people still face difficulties in overcoming cultural and social stigma associated with mental health, but we’re creating a culture where mental health is actively discussed, managed and understood. The role of our senior leadership and their willingness to share their personal stories on the topic of mental well-being have been pivotal to the success of this programme.

Now we’re seeing how this approach is having an effect. While our Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR) has increased compared to 2016, paradoxically I am comfortable with this feedback, since it reflects better reporting systems being put in place as a direct consequence of an increase in employee awareness of mental health issues – and their comfort in reporting them. This has helped us to provide appropriate support to our employees. It strengthens the adage “if you can’t measure accurately, you can’t provide the support needed.”

We’ve always been a business that sees it as our fundamental responsibility to promote and enhance the health of employees – and if our people are the best they can be, then that’s good for our business too.”

Easy access to support and training

Everyone employed by Unilever should be just one conversation, one phone call or one click away from support.


1 chat, 1 call, 1 click campaign

One conversation, one phone call, one click

Behind this simple statement is a range of options which include access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes that also extend access to family groups.

Employees can access online training on mental health and we have also developed a personal resilience assessment and training tool. Alongside this, we’ve set up a global partnership to provide mindfulness training.

As part of our initiatives in the UK, we’ve trained some employees to become ‘mental health first aiders’. Our first aiders are points of contact who can share a first conversation or guide someone in accessing a range of professional help. They’re valuable in identifying early help for those who may be on the verge of developing a mental health issue. Another UK innovation is our new well-being app, which we piloted in 2017. This is an example of our "#1chat1click1call" commitment and offers employees 24 hour-a-day support in choosing the best available source of help or guidance.

Making time to talk

Suicide has a devastating impact on individuals and families across Ireland, which has the second highest youth suicide rate in Europe. There remains a stigma around the topic of suicide and self-harm, and Irish people don’t talk openly about mental health issues.

In 2017, for a second year, our Lyons Tea brand formed a partnership with Pieta House. This is a national charity that provides free counselling and support services for those suffering from suicidal thoughts, self-harm or bereavement. Since Pieta House first opened their doors, they have helped over 29,000 people, including nearly 6,000 people in 2017 alone. And 25% of those helped were under 25 years old. Research also shows that around 135 people are impacted by every life lost to suicide.

Through tea, which is often at the heart of conversations, we can encourage people to talk about their mental health and direct them to a place where they can receive help if they need it. To coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, we launched limited edition packs of our Lyons 80s Original which included a tear-out card on Pieta House and the work that they do. Lyons also donated 10c to Pieta House for every pack purchased. With the funds raised through these donations, Pieta House was able to provide 1,305 hours of counselling.

We also carried out some research to uncover the mindset of Irish residents when it comes to mental health. Amongst the findings we discovered that just over half of adults (52%) say they always make time to speak with someone when they need to, while 48% say they should make more time to talk. To amplify our message we created a five-week national radio campaign ‘#Timetotalk’ across Spin 1038 & iRadio. The campaign included 132 broadcasting hours dedicated to mental health.

Following our campaign, consumer research showed that 84% of adults rated the fit between Lyons and Pieta House as excellent or good (77% in 2016). 84% of all adults agreed it was beneficial in raising awareness of suicide prevention (78% in 2016), and 81% said it made them more aware of the services of Pieta House (71% in 2016).

Helping our employees thrive

The Thrive workshop was a good moment for me to take a look at different areas of my life and see how they all come together. Do they work well together? Are there any patterns that need change? That really added a lot of value.

Thrive workshop participant, 2017

Today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing world is exciting, but can also be stressful. We want our employees to understand their holistic health status; if we can help motivate them to reduce their well-being risks and adopt healthy habits, they’ll have the skills to thrive and work more sustainably.

That’s the thinking behind our Thrive well-being workshops. In tandem with Lamplighter’s health checks and advice, we use them to bring to life the four pillars of our Well-being Framework (physical, emotional, mental and purposeful well-being). During the workshops we explain each of the pillars as a battery of energy that needs to be charged and used safely, as well as replenished and cared for in a sustainable way.

The workshops also engage senior leaders, as they play an important role in demonstrating, supporting and empowering leadership behaviours. We know that employees often follow behaviour patterns set by managers, so this engagement with leaders from across the business allows us to demonstrate that the Well-being Framework is not just theoretical, but a vital contribution to our way of operating sustainably. Over 2015-2017, around 50,000 employees have taken part in our Thrive workshops.

In 2017, we developed short videos to train people in what we call ‘healthy performance habits’ – ie keeping work and life in balance. These are available on our intranet and cover adaptability, collaboration, demands and pressure, emotional energy, empowerment, energy recovery, experimentation, focus and purpose.

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