Improving health & well-being

We are using our scale and influence to bring about change in the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

Today, 2.4 billion people - a third of the world’s population - do not have access to a clean, safe toilet, and of these individuals, 946 million defecate in the open.1 According to a WHO/UNICEF report1, 663 million people are without access to safe drinking water globally and the lack of safe drinking water is a major public health issue. Women and girls are most acutely affected by inadequate facilities and also bear the burden of collecting water.

Over 1.4 million children under five die each year from diarrhoea and pneumonia2, with many of these deaths caused by the inter-related issues of poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water. Yet these deaths are largely preventable. Studies show that washing hands with soap is one of the most effective - and inexpensive - ways to reduce child mortality. Recognising this, governments around the world have committed to promoting handwashing as part of the UN’s Global Goal 6 on Clean water and sanitation.

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 safe water to drink, and building and maintaining safe and hygienic toilets.

Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we aim to help improve the health and well-being of more than 1 billion people by 2020.

Our approach

Given our portfolio of brands - such as Domestos, Lifebuoy and Pureit - we have a strong focus on water, sanitation, and hygiene (or ‘WASH’ - addressing water, sanitation and hygiene together). With our partners, we aim to change people’s hygiene behaviours by raising awareness of the benefits of handwashing with soap, helping people gain improved access to a toilet through promoting the benefits of using clean toilets and making them accessible, and by providing people with safe drinking water.

Global partnerships & advocacy

We aim to drive transformational change around WASH by working with stakeholders to facilitate an enabling environment, raise awareness of the role of the private sector can play in contributing to cost-effective WASH solutions, and to support programmes that drive sustainable change at scale.

Cost-effective WASH solutions can lift people out of poverty and give them greater opportunities for a brighter future. For example, through our partnership with UNICEF we have helped 6.2 million3 people gain improved access to a toilet through behaviour-change interventions and capacity-building initiatives. Additionally, Lifebuoy’s collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will protect children under five from childhood illnesses and premature death by promoting handwashing with soap and immunisation together.

We are continuing our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap and access to improved sanitation through campaigns on Global Handwashing Day and World Toilet Day.

On World Toilet Day in 2016, we opened Suvidha, a sustainable hygiene and sanitation community centre in one of Mumbai’s largest slums. Suvidha provides toilets that flush, handwashing facilities with soap, clean showers, safe drinking water, and laundry facilities at an affordable cost for 1,500 people from low-income households. We support the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) to provide every household a toilet by 2019. We are also working with other countries where the sanitation needs are great - and we have a market opportunity to help at scale.

And through our participation in multi-stakeholder coalitions, such as WASH4Work, we will mobilise greater private sector engagement in the provision of adequate and accessible WASH solutions in business operations, supply chains and surrounding communities.

New business models

A key enabler to driving transformational change is in bringing new business models to market. Through Transform, a partnership with Unilever, the UK’s Department for International Development and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, we are helping to improve the health and well-being of 100 million people in Africa and South Asia by increasing household access to WASH, as well as energy, through effective market-based solutions.

More detail on each of the areas where we are promoting transformational change and the partners we are working with to achieve this can be found in the pages below.

1 Joint Monitoring Programme Report 2015: Progress on Sanitation & Drinking Water: 2015 Updated and MDG Assessment.


3 Results are reported by UNICEF in accordance with its methodology and include reach from direct and indirect initiatives over 2012-2015.

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