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Toilets for a better tomorrow

We are promoting better sanitation habits and helping people gain improved access to a toilet.

Domestos toilet academy Vietnam

A sanitation crisis

A staggering estimated 2.4 billion people – a third of the world’s population – do not have access to a clean, safe toilet. Of these, 946 million people defecate in the open1. There are still many countries in the world where less than half the population has access to adequate sanitation facilities. This is not acceptable, particularly when 340,000 children under five die each year from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water – that’s almost 1,000 children per day1.

For women and girls, poor sanitation is especially hard. Imagine if every time you needed to go to the toilet you risked disease, shame, harassment and/or violence? What if every month your daughter missed school because of her menstrual cycle? What if all this could be solved by simply having access to hygienic toilets?


Sanitation is recognised as a fundamental human right

Access to sanitation is a basic human right. Depriving people of a proper toilet affects the social, physical and economic well-being of societies. To tackle the sanitation crisis, world leaders have agreed on Global Goal for Sustainable Development 6, which sets out to ‘ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’.

This is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, which was adopted via the UN in September 2015.

How are we tackling the sanitation crisis?

We believe we are uniquely placed to play an active role in addressing the sanitation crisis, with the global reach of our business, combined with our innovation, marketing and behaviour change expertise, distribution networks and our Household Care brands - particularly our toilet hygiene brand Domestos.

Our approach to sanitation is three-fold. It includes partnerships (such as Domestos’s partnership with UNICEF), market-based models (like our Domestos Toilet Academy) and advocacy (for example, through World Toilet Day). See Creating New Solutions with our Brands & Partners.

Unilever is also participating in industry collaborations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Pledge for Access to Safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at the Workplace and WASH4Work to enhance WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in our facilities, supply chains and surrounding communities, as well as helping to create an enabling environment for business.

Addressing sanitation as an interconnected challenge

We added a new target to our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in 2014 - to help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020. By helping people access a proper toilet, and promoting the benefits of using clean toilets, we will also open new markets, drive demand for our products, and foster innovation, research and development

As Charlie Beevor, our Global Brand Vice-President, Household Cleaners explains, “Sanitation affects every aspect of people’s lives. It is a complex challenge, however, addressing sanitation also contributes to other Unilever Sustainable Living Plan priorities such as nutrition and women’s empowerment.”

The Toilet Board Coalition

We believe that improving sanitation on a large scale in developing countries depends on co-operation between the private sector, governments and civil society, with shared goals and a willingness to pool resources. That is why in 2014 we united businesses, NGOs, academics and social entrepreneurs to establish the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC). This aims to develop commercially-scalable sanitation models and is exploring how to scale up urban and rural sanitation models in Africa and South East Asia.

Domestos: A global voice for sanitation

During recent years Domestos, our leading toilet hygiene brand, has focused on the impact of poor sanitation on children’s attendance at school. Each year, 443 million sick days are taken by children in the developing world due to insanitary toilet conditions2. Our No More Sick Days film has been running in multiple markets including the UK, Philippines and Australia.

Domestos has also sponsored World Toilet Day since 2009 to raise awareness of the sanitation crisis. We were delighted that in 2013, the UN officially recognised World Toilet Day to help improve sanitation conditions worldwide.


See Through Loo
Our ‘see through loo’

In 2015 and 2016, our Domestos ‘see-through loo’ (toilet) was featured at Global Citizen Festivals in New York and Mumbai as a powerful way of educating the public and international policy makers first-hand on the realities of open defecation.

See people’s reactions to our see-through loo on Australia’s Bondi Beach in 2016.

Re-thinking community hygiene

On World Toilet Day in November 2016, Unilever unveiled a first-of-its-kind urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre in Azad Nagar, Ghatkopar, one of the largest slums in Mumbai.

This area faces severe challenges due to lack of infrastructure and hygiene and sanitation facilities. The Unilever Suvidha (‘convenience’) Centre (PDF | 2MB), is a purpose-built, sustainable community centre that serves over 1,500 people in low income urban households, offering them toilets, handwashing, showers, washing machines and safe drinking water. The Centre will help to mitigate the health, well-being and economic risks associated with poor sanitation within this community.

A new mindset; a new approach

Sanjiv Mehta, CEO & Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever


Sanjiv Mehta, CEO & Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever, explains how we are thinking about the best way to drive change. “To accelerate our progress on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, we questioned our current thinking on WASH issues: what solutions can we provide to address the Goals in an urban context?

“With this mindset, we developed a new approach to doing business. Whilst many people may think of us as a company that sells products, making sustainable living commonplace requires us to think not only about the products we create, but about services, new types of collaborations, innovation and partnerships. The Suvidha Centre is just one of the business models we are piloting as part of our efforts to drive transformational change.”


2 Source: WHO/UNICEF JMP, Update on drinking water and sanitation, 2015.

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