The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan for

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Health & hygiene

Health & hygiene

Lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation and hygiene cause millions of preventable deaths each year, particularly among children.

The World Health Organization estimates that tackling these closely interconnected issues has the potential to prevent at least 9% of global disease, and 6% of all deaths.1 Evidence shows that individuals will be healthier and happier, and communities more productive, if they have greater access to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Improving access to these basic needs is essential to lifting people out of poverty. The health and hygiene pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan contributes to a number of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development: Goal 3 Good health and well-being; 6 Clean water and sanitation; 8 Decent work and economic growth; 11 Sustainable cities and communities; and 17 Partnerships for the goals.

Our health and hygiene brands Lifebuoy, Domestos, Signal and Pureit aim to improve health through better hygiene. These everyday products - soaps, toilet cleaners and toothpastes as well as our innovative water purifiers, can help prevent disease and improve people’s health and well-being, ultimately helping to save lives.

However, providing quality, affordable products is only part of the solution to improving health through hygiene - people need to change their habits too. Using our understanding of habits and expertise in delivering behaviour change campaigns at scale, we promote enduring change in the everyday behaviours that matter to health.

1http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/levels_trends_child_mortality_2013/en/

Addressing health & hygiene makes business sense

Addressing social challenges is good for society - and it's good for business. Many of our programmes drive growth directly - our oral care, handwashing and sanitation programmes are good examples. When more people brush their teeth, use soap regularly, and have access to sanitation, toothpaste, soap and toilet cleaner consumption increases.

We drive many of our health and hygiene initiatives through the brands in our Personal Care category. This is the largest product category in our business with €20.2 billion turnover in 2016 and accounting for 38% of our Group turnover and 48% of our operating profit. It is home to brands such as Dove, Signal and Lifebuoy. Lifebuoy soap has been one of our fastest-growing brands over 2010-2016 and is the world's number one anti-bacterial soap brand.

Our Home Care category generated turnover of €10 billion in 2016, accounting for 19% of our Group turnover. It includes our water purifiers Pureit and Qinyuan as well as Domestos, our market-leading toilet cleaning brand which has a strong presence in emerging markets. Domestos is helping to give people access to improved sanitation and driving market development for our business. As the more people gain access to a toilet, the greater the potential for them to purchase toilet cleaners. Domestos grew by 9.7% in 2016.

Our approach

Giving people access to good quality, affordable products such as soap and toothpaste represents a crucial starting point in improving hygiene habits. Yet products alone are not enough. Studies show that most people know they should brush their teeth twice a day, and wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating, but they often don't.

As one of the world's leading companies producing consumer goods which people use every day, we understand the triggers, barriers and motivators that generate sustained behaviour shifts. Underpinning our approach is our model of behaviour change, Unilever's Five Levers for Change (PDF | 3MB). This is a set of principles which, if applied consistently, increases the likelihood of creating a lasting impact. We use this knowledge, coupled with our expertise in marketing and in delivering campaigns at mass scale, to catalyse enduring change in everyday behaviours.

Innovation

We aim to change behaviours through innovations that encourage good hygiene. For example, Lifebuoy’s colour changing handwash makes it fun for children to wash their hands properly. Our water purifier business continued to grow in 2016: our purifiers offer water that is not only safe and convenient to use, but that tastes good too.

We have extended their appeal by communicating superior safety and have introduced new models that tackle increasing problems such as removing total dissolved salts (TDS) from drinking water, and most recently, a model that dramatically improves the removal of the pesticide residues that are frequently found when washing leafy vegetables.

Advocacy & partnerships

In July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation. It acknowledged that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to full enjoyment of life and all human rights. Unilever respects these rights by ensuring that we operate our business in a way that fulfils the human right to water, as defined by the UN Human Right to Water Policy.

We have also signed the World Business Council for Sustainable Development WASH Pledge to ensure access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in all our factories, plantations and workplaces.

Heads of state from all around the world gathered in New York in September 2015 to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, resulting in 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (the Global Goals). Unilever played a leading role in advocating and developing the Global Goals. Included within them is a dedicated goal on water and sanitation (Global Goal 6). This sets out to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

Unilever worked with others to call for hygiene to be included as a key component of the Goal and welcomed the inclusion of indicators measuring access to handwashing with soap facilities. Through our brands, behaviour change programmes and by joining forces with others around events such as the UN General Assembly, Regional Water, Sanitation and Hygiene summits, World Toilet Day and International Women’s Day, we will be contributing towards achieving Goal 6.

Partnering with organisations who share our ambition to improve health through better hygiene is key to achieving impact at scale. We work with partners in a number of different ways: on joint advocacy programmes to raise the profile of issues; on scaling-up existing programmes and piloting new initiatives; and on working together to secure additional funding which will increase the impact of our investment. We believe businesses are well-placed to work with governments, civil society and development agencies to drive transformational and sustainable change at scale.

Whether it’s through our understanding of consumers, knowledge of behaviour change, the design of innovative products, or the provision of financing, we bring a host of resources and knowledge to the table that can strengthen our collaborations, and in turn, improve people’s health and well-being while simultaneously growing our business.

The Toilet Board Coalition is one example - a global, business-led alliance of companies, investors, sanitation experts and non-profit organisations, which aims to develop sustainable and scalable solutions to the sanitation crisis. Another example is Transform, a £10 million partnership with the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership and DFID to fund and support new social enterprises with a focus on WASH and energy.

Our commitment

By 2020, we will help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and hygiene. This will help reduce the incidence of life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea - one of the biggest causes of deaths in children under five.

Progress to date
  • Six years into our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have learnt that it is possible to reach people at scale with hygiene messages and safe drinking water. By the end of 2016 we had succeeded in reaching around 538 million people: 379 million people with Lifebuoy; 6.2 million with improved access to a toilet1; 75 million with our toothpaste brands; 23 million through Dove self-esteem programmes; and 55 million with safe drinking water from Pureit. Pureit also provided 85 billion litres†2 of safe drinking water.
  • We continued to improve sanitation through our global partnership with UNICEF, scaled-up the Domestos Toilet Academy programme and rolled-out water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in schools.
Future challenges

Lifebuoy runs one of the world's largest handwashing programme. In order to reach our 1 billion target, we are finding ways to deliver effective handwashing behaviour change at an even lower cost. For this, we will continue to evaluate how partners and the use of new technology can help to deliver behaviour change more efficiently and effectively, for instance by using new channels and targeting key moments.

We are piloting the use of mobile on its own or combined with face-to-face programmes, such as in schools when children are learning their hygiene habits, or through midwives to reach expectant mothers and caregivers.

For our range of water purifiers, our immediate priority is to strengthen and expand operations in existing markets. Acquiring the Qinyuan water purification business in China in 2014 added to our capabilities. However, to build scale, we need stronger distribution and after-sales service capabilities. We also need to build successful partnerships with micro-finance institutions to make purifiers more affordable to low-income consumers.

For Domestos, building toilets alone is not enough. For individuals and communities to prioritise buying a toilet, and for toilets to continue to be used over time, requires a fundamental shift in behaviour. So we are continuing to support initiatives that drive behaviour change through a number of different routes, such as the Domestos Toilet Academies and our support of UNICEF’s sanitation programming.

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Independently assured by PwC

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

2 A number of consumables (‘Germkill Kits’) were provided to distributors to package with Pureit devices and not sold separately as replacements. This has resulted in double counting litres of safe water between 2011 and 2015 for these consumables. The cumulative number to 2015 is restated from 78 billion litres to 73 billion litres.


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Targets & performance

We have set ambitious targets to meet people’s needs for good health and hygiene.

Health & hygiene
Our commitment

By 2020, we will help more than a billion people to improve their health and hygiene. This will help reduce the incidence of life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea.

Our performance

Around 538 million people reached by end 2016 through our programmes on handwashing, sanitation, oral health, self-esteem and safe drinking water: 379 million people with Lifebuoy; 6.2 million with improved access to a toilet1; 75 million with our toothpaste brands; 23 million through Dove self-esteem programmes; and 55 million with safe drinking water from Pureit. Pureit also provided 85 billion litres†2 of safe drinking water by the end of 2016.

Our perspective

We are on track to meet our 2020 commitment. By the end of 2016, we had reached around 538 million people, up from 482 million in 2015. In 2016 alone, Lifebuoy reached 42 million people.

Our Signal and Pepsodent toothpaste brands reached their 2020 target early, and by 2016 had reached 75 million people through our Brush Day & Night campaigns.*

Dove achieved its 2015 target a year early, and reached nearly 20 million by 2015. In 2016 we extended our target to reach another 20 million young people – our ambition now is to help a total of 40 million by 2020.

In 2014, we introduced a new target for sanitation, with Domestos working with UNICEF to scale up sanitation improvement initiatives. Over 2012-2015, we enabled 6.2 million people to gain improved access to a toilet.

Independently assured by PwC.

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

2 A number of consumables (‘Germkill Kits’) were provided to distributors to package with Pureit devices and not sold separately as replacements. This has resulted in double counting litres of safe water between 2011 and 2015 for these consumables. The cumulative number to 2015 is restated from 78 billion litres to 73 billion litres.

* See Our Metrics for the definition of ‘reach’.


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Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Reduce diarrhoeal and respiratory disease through handwashing

By 2020 our Lifebuoy brand aims to change the hygiene behaviour of 1 billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America by promoting the benefits of handwashing with soap at key times.

In 2015, we extended our target from 2015 to 2020.

379 million people reached since 2010.


Our Perspective

Our major challenge is scaling up programmes cost-effectively. Since 2010, we have made strong progress, reaching 379 million people and developing models which more than halve the cost per contact.

However, our current programmes rely on direct contact interventions. Although we have reduced the cost per contact while maintaining effectiveness, we are constantly identifying new channels to optimise costs further and enabling us to reach greater scale each year. We are continuing to evaluate how partners and the use of new technology can help to deliver behaviour change more efficiently and effectively, for instance by using new channels and targeting key moments.

Provide safe drinking water

Through our range of water purifiers, we aim to provide 150 billion litres of safe drinking water by 2020.1

Pureit provided 85 billion litres†2 of safe drinking water by 2016. In 2016 alone it provided around 12 billion litres.


Our Perspective

Our range of water purifiers is available in 12 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The combined populations in these markets represent half the population of the world. Over 2005-2016 we provided 85 billion litres†2 of safe drinking water, with around 12 billion litres in 2016.

We expanded our business in China with the acquisition in 2014 of the Qinyuan Group, China’s largest water purifying company.3 Water purification is a growing global category for our business, growing by 2.8 % in 2016.

We continue to enhance our product offerings to appeal to consumers across different income levels and markets. Our most affordable model costs around €20 in India (INR 1,600), with an ongoing running cost of just one euro cent for about two litres of safe drinking water. This is lower than the cost of boiling water and significantly less than buying bottled water.

1 We revised our target in 2014 to reflect what matters most for health – the ongoing consumption of safe drinking water. The new metric also allows us to capture the ongoing consumption of safe water (litres) that is a stronger surrogate measure of the ongoing health impact, versus just providing one-off devices. It improves on our previous metric of people reached, which measured sales of our purifiers multiplied by the average household size to give a number of people reached on average by each device. Over 2005-2013, 55 million people used Pureit.

Independently assured by PwC .

2 A number of consumables (‘Germkill Kits’) were provided to distributors to package with Pureit devices and not sold separately as replacements. This has resulted in double counting litres of safe water between 2011 and 2015 for these consumables. The cumulative number to 2015 is restated from 78 billion litres to 73 billion litres.

3 Qinyuan is not yet included in our calculation of litres of safe drinking water provided.

Improve access to sanitation

By 2020 we will help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by promoting the benefits of using clean toilets and by making toilets accessible.

Over 2012-2015, we helped 6.2 million people gain improved access to a toilet.


Our Perspective

When we added this target to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in 2014, we became the first company to make a commitment to improving sanitation on this scale. Over 2012-2015, Domestos’s partnership with UNICEF has helped 6.2 million people gain improved access to a toilet.*

Sanitation is one of the most complex areas of development. We are working with partners to roll out quality sanitation programmes with increasing speed and scale. In 2016, we continued our global partnership with UNICEF, scaled-up the Domestos Toilet Academy programme and rolled-out water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in schools. We also opened the Unilever Suvidha Centre in India, a sustainable community centre for over 1,500 people in low income households, offering toilets, handwashing, showers, washing machines and safe drinking water.

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

Improve oral hygiene

We will use our toothpaste and toothbrush brands and oral health improvement programmes to encourage children and their parents to brush day and night. We aim to reach 50 million people by 2020.

We achieved our target early, reaching over 50 million people. By 2016, our total increased to 75 million. We reached around 4 million people in 2016.


Our Perspective

Signal/Pepsodent’s mission is to improve oral health by encouraging families to brush morning and night using fluoride toothpaste. Research shows that long-term brushing habits are best forged during childhood, so we focus on instilling good habits from an early age, and encourage positive parental role modelling. This approach has proved very effective in changing habits and growing brand equity.

In 2016 we launched our Dentist with a Heart programme to enable dentists to teach oral health in our schools programme, using our resources. And capitalising on mobile technology, we introduced Little Brush Big Brush, one of the first campaigns in our industry to be delivered through chatbot technology on Facebook Messenger. A free, 21-day behaviour change programme, it combines animated storytelling and cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to create an entertaining and educational experience for families.

Improve self-esteem

With our Dove brand we are helping millions of young people to build up positive body confidence and self-esteem through educational programmes.



  • By 2015 we aimed to help 15 million young people. In fact, we reached nearly 20 million by 2015, and in 2016 we extended our target to help another 20 million young people by 2020.

15.8 million young people received our help over 2004-2014. By 2015, we reached 19.4 million. This figure grew to 23 million in 2016, setting us on our way to our new ambition to help 40 million young people.


Our Perspective

We achieved our 2015 target a year early, and reached nearly 20 million by 2015. To keep up our ambition, in 2016 we extended our target to reach another 20 million young people – our aim now is to help a total of 40 million by 2020.

In 2016 we continued to accelerate the reach and quality of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, developing cost effective, impactful implementation strategies. We extended our partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to 2020 and also expanded our formal education research by partnering with governments as far apart as France, the UK and Argentina to spread self-esteem education more widely through schools.

Through our Dove Day 2016 we reached more than 30,000 students when around 3,000 of our employees across 37 countries joined us in delivering self-esteem workshops.

Dove is our largest Personal Care brand and continued to grow in 2016.

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