Achieving universal access to water, sanitation & hygiene

Our ambition is to achieve universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The world’s nations are discussing how to enshrine this commitment into a new set of sustainable development goals. With our unique portfolio of health and hygiene brands, Unilever is well placed to help.

Today 2.5 billion people still lack effective sanitation and good hygiene facilities. More than 700 million lack access to improved sources of drinking water. Diarrhoea - linked to poor water, sanitation and hygiene - kills an estimated 1,600 children under five every day. Women and girls are most acutely affected by inadequate facilities and bear the burden of collecting water.

Tackling these issues together can achieve a fundamental impact on the diseases that cause ill health and cost lives. Simple changes can make a big difference: washing hands with soap, providing clean water to drink, and building and maintaining safe toilets.

Our approach

Uniquely, Unilever has leading brands - Lifebuoy, Pureit and Domestos - that can make a difference in these three areas.

Already we are changing hygiene behaviour at scale. Since 2010 Lifebuoy's handwashing programmes have reached 257 million people. Pureit has provided safe drinking water to 55 million people. Domestos is now partnering with governments and international NGOs to promote clean and accessible toilets – over 1 million people have benefited already.

However the goal of universal access will not be achieved without change on a much bigger scale. That is why we continue to advocate a clear commitment in the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals which all governments will need to adhere to. We are also stepping up our own partnership work, for example with the government of India.

Our advocacy objectives

We are working to secure a stand-alone Water and Sanitation Goal in the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals - including targets on ending open defecation and providing universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene in households, schools and health facilities. We would also like to see indicators which measure facilities for handwashing with soap – a cost-effective, life-saving behaviour.

We want to create a transformative movement around WASH (addressing water, sanitation and hygiene goals together) – by working with partners to raise awareness amongst citizens and politicians of WASH’s role as a key driver of development.

At national level we support the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan - Clean India Campaign - to provide every household a toilet by 2019. We are working with other countries where the sanitation needs are great - and we have a market opportunity to help at scale - including in Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil.

Our principal partnerships

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW)

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) is a coalition of international stakeholders with the aim to give families, schools, and communities in developing countries the power to prevent diarrhoea and respiratory infections by supporting the universal promotion and practice of proper handwashing with soap at critical times.


PSI is an international NGO that makes it easier for people in the developing world to lead healthier lives by marketing affordable products and services. Working together with Unilever, PSI is helping children and their carers develop life-saving behaviours such as handwashing with soap, while also providing education on safe drinking water and increasing access to sanitation.

The Toilet Board Coalition

The Toilet Board Coalition is a global, business-led coalition of leading companies, government agencies, sanitation experts and non-profit organisations which aims to develop sustainable and scalable commercial solutions in response to the sanitation crisis. Launched in 2014, it is the first coalition of its kind and will provide a step-change in sanitation to those who need it most.


UNICEF is an international organisation that promotes the rights and well-being of every child. It focuses special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. Our partnership aims to eliminate the practice of open defecation by changing the sanitation behaviours of millions of people and helping to ensure the availability of local resources and services in order to build affordable household toilets based on the increased demand.

USAID/Maternal and Child Health Integrated Programme (MCHIP)

The USAID/Maternal and Child Health Integrated Programme (MCHIP) is the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship maternal, neonatal and child health programme. Together we are raising the profile of handwashing with soap for newborn survival and reaching new mothers and birth attendants with hygiene education.


WaterAid transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities. We partnered with WaterAid to provide over 140,000 people with access to WASH in Bangladesh as part of Project Laser Beam. These interventions were underpinned by ensuring that the communities and schools also had access to clean water and sanitation facilities, including hygiene promotion.

The Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

WSSCC is committed to contributing to global efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene for the most vulnerable members of society. WSSCC, partnered with Domestos, Unilever’s leading toilet hygiene brand, and WaterAid, to publish We Can’t Wait, a report highlighting the need to scale up sanitation projects, as well as illustrating the consequences for women and girls resulting from the lack of access to toilets.

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is a multi-sector partnership. It focuses on improving the lives of the urban poor in developing countries through sustainable water and sanitation services, the promotion of good hygiene, and raising the health and environmental standards of the community. Together we launched Clean Team, a new approach to urban sanitation service provision that shifts the focus from sanitation as an asset, to sanitation as a service. We also partner on school handwashing programmes designed to drive behaviour change.

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