Health & hygiene

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Partnership For The Goals

Ready to respond to disasters & emergencies

We’re using our resources, expertise, products, and networks to prepare for natural disasters better and be ready to respond to them. And we’re supporting the needs of individuals forcibly displaced from their homes.

Family outside home that has been flooded in Bangladesh

More people than ever are having to leave their homes

Each year, 26 million people are pushed into poverty because of increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters.1 These disasters have a huge human, environmental, societal and economic cost – and the effects of climate change will only drive these costs higher.2

On top of this, the current refugee crisis represents perhaps the biggest humanitarian challenge the world has ever known. An estimated 68.5 million people3 worldwide have been displaced from their homes by conflict, famine and persecution.4 Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under 18.5

The impact of these crises – natural and man-made – is immense. They deprive people of their homes and livelihoods, tear families apart, devastate communities and destroy lives. They also disrupt the supply of essential goods and services, with businesses around the world – including ours – feeling the effects throughout the value chain.

This is why we are committed to helping people better prepare for such crises, navigate these challenging times and rebuild or settle in their new homes, while working to make our business resilient in the face of increasing disasters and emergencies.

In addition to looking at our own business, we actively advocate for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and businesses to break down the silos that exist and work together to better prepare for crises.

Relief where it counts

When a disaster strikes, we offer our expertise, products and funds to support emergency relief efforts and help communities address the immediate challenges that they face.

We have also created partnerships that provide immediate help. For example, since 2017 we have partnered with international humanitarian aid organisation Direct Relief to help people get the products they need as fast as possible in times of crisis. Our soap, body wash and shampoo are part of the emergency kits distributed through Direct Relief’s networks.

Direct Relief has distributed thousands of kits in response to the Kerala floods in India, the California wildfires, the floods in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps and the ongoing cholera outbreak in Yemen.


Doctor giving Vaseline to child

Vaseline lends a healing hand

Millions of people affected by crises or poverty suffer from extreme physical discomfort and infection. This can leave them unable to work or function properly. The cause? Common skin conditions that could be treated – or even prevented altogether – with a simple jar of Vaseline® Jelly.

82% of frontline health workers supporting people in crisis said that petroleum jelly would help them treat skin ailments better.6 We’re raising awareness and funds through our Vaseline® skin products. The Vaseline® Healing Project channels our support through the international relief organisation, Direct Relief.

Since 2015, we’ve helped to heal the skin of over 4 million people across 74 countries, through donations of Vaseline® products, as well as through relief missions to provide skin care treatment and training for local health workers.

In 2018, we supported communities in Indonesia following an earthquake, tsunami and volcano eruptions. In Bangladesh, we helped Rohingya refugees. And in Jordan, we sponsored a series of doctors on three-month placements, rotating around different Syrian refugee camps.

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)
  • Partnership For The Goals)

Displaced but not forgotten: supporting refugees’ long-term needs

Some emergencies take place over a matter of hours, others over years. Either way, those impacted require support to rebuild their lives. So we’re leveraging our brands, products and partnerships to help displaced families access everyday essentials, develop their skills and settle into their new homes.

In Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, we have partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Carrefour, the supermarket chain, to help vulnerable individuals during the cold winter months. Through our Smile with Us campaign, we raised awareness of the refugee crisis in retail stores and donated a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our products to provide families with essential everyday items. This campaign enabled us to support hundreds of refugee families, while unlocking business growth and consumer engagement.

In Jordan, we are also working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to deliver the Baqala programme. This develops Syrian refugees’ selling and merchandising skills through a three month on-the-job training and internship provided by Unilever.

In Turkey, we’ve developed a reverse mentoring scheme with ideas platform, Xynteo. The ‘Embark’ partnership connects talented young Syrians in Istanbul with business leaders across Unilever Turkey to build refugees’ personal and professional networks. In return, we get insights into where young people see culture, technology and business heading. The pilot took place in 2018 and matched 13 Syrian applicants with 16 senior Unilever employees. We are now running this collaboration with Mastercard. A second group was selected in Autumn 2018.

Through Ben & Jerry’s, we’re also partnering with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) to help refugees improve their livelihoods and integrate them better into their new society. The Ice Cream Entrepreneurs (ICE) Academy gives refugee entrepreneurs the training they need to develop their own business, alongside short-term jobs in our own business. We launched the Ice Academy in 2017 and have supported 80 refugees so far across the UK, Netherlands and Germany.

In late 2018, Ben & Jerry’s UK launched a new flavour, Spice & All Things N’ice, to support the ICE Academy. Proceeds from the sales contribute to a cooperative grant fund owned and managed by the graduates themselves so they can develop their business ideas.


Man giving presentation about Mum's Magic Hands programme

Mum's magic hands guide the way in emergency settings

Refugee communities and those affected by flood, earthquake or other natural or man-made disasters are among the most vulnerable to disease. In 2017, we teamed up with Oxfam to create a customised programme – the first of its kind in an emergency setting – to go beyond simple product donation, seeking to impact behaviours in settings where crowding and diarrhoeal disease are high.

Every situation is different, so we spoke to women who were affected by different emergencies – in Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines – to help us understand the challenges they face in day-to-day life. We also identified the barriers and motivators to behaviour change in each of these settings. In response, we developed Mum’s Magic Hands, a programme that reaches mothers based on universal insights that can work even in extremely difficult conditions.

At its heart is a story about a mum and her magic hands, told through the eyes of a little girl. Mothers nurture their children against all odds. Their magic hands put their children to sleep, clean them, help them learn to walk and soothe away their pain. And washing those magic hands can prevent their children from getting ill. The story is brought to life through a series of sessions, with activities and stickers to promote and reinforce the practice of handwashing with soap at home and in the community.

The programme was piloted among mothers across earthquake affected areas in Nepal and was successful in improving handwashing with soap knowledge and practice during critical moments during the day, such as before eating and after going to the toilet. The programme is being rolled out as a response to the 2018 floods in Kerala, India. The Nepal programme showed significant increases in handwashing with soap before eating and preparing food (18% and 17% respectively). The programme also proved to significantly impact handwashing with soap after going to the toilet, with 45% more mothers observed washing their hands with soap.7

We are now working with Oxfam to share our findings with the objective of offering the full suite of materials developed to humanitarian-based organisations that aim to improve the practice of handwashing with soap in emergency-affected areas.

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)
  • Clean Water and Sanitation)
  • Partnership For The Goals)

Speaking up for refugee rights

We’re using our voice as a major global business to raise awareness of the refugee crisis, engage the private sector and champion policies that support the rights of refugees.

In September 2018, during the UN General Assembly, we launched a report with the International Rescue Committee and Project Everyone. Our aim was to accelerate action to ensure no one is left behind in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report, entitled ‘SDG Progress: Fragility, Crisis and Leaving No One Behind (PDF - 2.5MB)’, gives recommendations to ensure people in crisis and other marginalised groups are prioritised when projects are implemented to tackle the SDGs. The launch of the report was accompanied by a short film directed by Richard Curtis.

Ben & Jerry’s, one of our ice cream brands, has been working on its ‘Together for Refugees’ campaign since World Refugee Day on 20 June 2017. In partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the goal was to ensure the European Union passes the Union Resettlement Framework so that refugees have a safe and legal route to resettle in Europe. The campaign concluded in March 2018 with both organisations handing a petition signed by 50,000 people to seven Bulgarian embassies across Europe, as Bulgaria holds the EU presidency.

To support the campaign, Ben & Jerry's also launched a new ice cream flavour − Home Sweet Honey Comb. The packaging carries a clear message: ‘Refugees Welcome’, and a portion of its proceeds went towards supporting the IRC’s work.

In 2018, Ben & Jerry’s partnered with Refugee Action as part of the Lift the Ban coalition – which is made of more than 150 organisations from across the UK, including grassroots groups, NGOs, think tanks and social enterprises – to call on the UK government to give people seeking asylum the right to work.

Encouraging business to embrace refugees

In 2018, we continued to play an active role in the Tent Partnership for Refugees. This is a coalition of more than 100 companies making efforts to support refugees around the world. It offers a platform for companies to share information and best practices, and increase private sector coordination. It also helps to forge innovative solutions to deliver greater impact in response to the global refugee crisis.

To mark World Refugee Day in 2018, we co-hosted a gathering of 15 Dutch business leaders. We discussed the role of the private sector in addressing the crisis and encouraged companies to take action in Europe and beyond. Since then, multiple companies have been working with Tent to formalise their commitment.

1 World Bank & Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery: Unbreakable: Building the resilience of the poor in the face of natural disasters, 2016

2 World Meteorological Organization: The Escalating Impacts of Climate-Related Natural Disasters, Report/15, July 2014




6 Based on an internal survey of 127 of Direct Relief’s partner clinics across 39 countries.

7 Lifebuoy and Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Office partnership with Oxfam, collaborating on a handwashing with soap behaviour change programme for communities affected by flood, earthquake or other type of emergency. The programme was piloted in Nepal following the earthquake in 2015.

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