Health & hygiene

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Partnership For The Goals
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Toilets for a better tomorrow

We’re taking action against poor sanitation to free millions of people from indignity and disease.

Toilets at school

Tackling the sanitation crisis

Incredibly, one in three people on the planet doesn’t have access to a clean, safe toilet. Almost 892 million people are still forced to defecate in the open.1 This is often hardest on women and girls who risk shame, harassment and even violence just by going to the toilet.

As a result of the lack of sanitation, every two minutes a child under five dies from a disease linked to unsafe water and sanitation.2 However, many of these deaths could be prevented with clean toilets, handwashing and safe drinking water. We believe access to sanitation is a basic human right. Clean, safe toilets can free people from a life of indignity and disease. And we know that investment in water and sanitation boosts the economy – every dollar invested yields $4.30 in increased productivity.3

In fact, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is the focus of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensuring access to water and sanitation for all. We’re contributing to this goal through the power of our Domestos brand and global reach. Since setting our sanitation target in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in 2014, we’ve helped over 10 million people gain improved access to a toilet.4

Our leading toilet hygiene brand, Domestos, has a global partnership with children’s charity, UNICEF. It is through this partnership that we have been able to help millions of people gain improved access to a toilet. Our target is to help 25 million by 2020. We support government efforts to build more toilets and have helped build over 220,000 toilets so far. But our main focus is on encouraging people to use toilets where they are made available and keep them clean to prevent disease, especially in schools.

Starting in the classroom

We’ve found that by educating children about the importance of good hygiene habits, they in turn influence their families. So as part of our partnership with UNICEF, Domestos is supporting sanitation education in schools through the School-Led Total Sanitation programme.

Domestos is also working with other NGO partners to run school programmes in eight countries in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. Together we’re improving toilet facilities in schools and providing education about healthy sanitation and hygiene habits. With fewer sick days as a result, we’re helping kids to stay healthy and in school.

From building toilets…

In India, there’s a big push from the government on toilet construction. From 2014 through to June 2017, we ran the Domestos Toilet Academies (DTA) programme under the local brand name Domex. The Academies trained local entrepreneurs to sell, install and maintain clean and safe toilets. At the same time, the entrepreneurs educated people about the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

From 2015, we have also worked with Population Services International (PSI) - building on their existing partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - to implement DTA in Bihar, India. Through this partnership, the programme has trained over 600 entrepreneurs, sold more than 214,000 household toilets, and reached nearly 1.2 million people. We also worked with micro-finance organisations to help poor families pay for a toilet. And we liaised with suppliers to help communities save money by buying materials in bulk.

…to cultivating clean habits

Clean, safe toilets have the potential to transform sanitation and health for millions of people. However, we noticed a trend that just because people have a toilet, doesn’t necessarily mean they will use it. The toilets may not function, they may not be maintained and or hygienic. That’s why we’re not just improving access to toilets, we’re also encouraging people to maintain them.

In 2017, and in partnership with PSI, we began our Creating Sustainable Sanitation Markets programme. This behaviour change programme is being piloted across 400 villages in the Chitoor district in Andhra Pradesh. It aims to reach 40,000 households, helping them to be free of open defecation in the next three years.

In 2017, we also published a guide for those who want to promote the demand for – and use of – toilets. The Unilever Sanitation Behaviour Change Source Book (PDF | 11MB) offers a framework, ideas and tips. It provides insights and inspiration to help with the design, planning and implementation of behaviour change programmes. It builds on the Five Levers for Change (PDF | 4MB) we’ve established to help people develop healthy hygiene habits such as handwashing.

Treks to the toilet: an everyday struggle

Simran Gill

Simran Gill, Global Assistant Brand Manager, Domestos & Living Hygiene, visited Mumbai’s largest slum to see firsthand how a brand like Domestos can help.

“I met a lady called Shruti, who really showed me the challenges facing people without access to clean, safe toilets. She lives with her mother-in-law, husband, and their two children. They share a two-room shanty house and have access to one communal toilet block. This is a 10 minute walk away, and is used by thousands of people. Going to the toilet at night especially, puts herself and her children at risk.

Governments are starting to provide more toilets, but after seeing the toilets in the slum, it was clear to me that the problem isn’t just about building toilets. It’s about ensuring they are well maintained and operational so they are fit to be used.

Shruti’s dream, like so many others, is having access to a clean, safe toilet. And that’s where brands like Domestos can come in. Domesto’s school sanitation programme is reaching millions of people and teaching them the importance of keeping toilets clean and maintained.

With the power of Domestos, I’m proud that we’re helping to make a real difference.”

Protecting people also helps us build our business

We’ve seen that communicating Domestos’ brand purpose is good for raising awareness of the importance of sanitation. It’s also good for business. For example, in 2017 it helped to significantly increase our market share in South Africa. And in Poland, our school sanitation programmes contributed to a 20% boost in brand awareness.

By communicating on packs, we’re also helping consumers get involved in improving access to toilets. For every specially-labelled pack of Domestos purchased, we are donating 5% of proceeds to UNICEF’s sanitation improvement programmes.

The growth of our Domestos brand is fuelling innovation, research and development to meet people’s needs. For example, we’ve developed new low-cost products such as the Domex Toilet Cleaning Powder for people in rural areas who may never have had a toilet at home before. We’re also exploring new commercial models to offer sustainable sanitation solutions.


Domestos logo

Innovation in India: Domex toilet cleaning powder

Millions of households in India are without a toilet, and the government wants 100 million new homes to have one by 2019. Most of these new homes will be for low income families, so they’ll need a low-cost solution to keep their toilets clean and hygienic.

Our new Domex Toilet Cleaning Powder removes all germs at an affordable price. And our powder keeps toilets smelling fresh too.

We introduced Domex Toilet Cleaning Powder in the state of Andhra Pradesh in March 2017. Since then, we have also started selling this innovation in other states in South India, helping more people to keep their toilet clean.

1 World Health Organization:

2 WaterAid:

3 World Health Organization: (PDF | 1.05MB)

4 Results are reported by UNICEF in accordance with its methodology and includes reach from direct and indirect initiatives over 2012-2016.

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