On 27th September 2014, at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, NY, Unilever announced a commitment to help 25 million people gain improved access to toilets by 2020.
This commitment is part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan – Unilever’s blueprint for sustainable growth. It will contribute to our goal of helping one billion people improve their health and well being by 2020, and sit alongside existing goals on providing access to safe and affordable drinking water, and education on the importance of handwashing with soap.
An estimated 2.5 billion people – over one third of the world’s population – live without access to adequate sanitation. Of these, over one billion continue to defecate in the open. This has a serious impact on people’s health, nutrition, education, on gender equality and sustainable economic development. It is a global tragedy that a child dies of diseases related to poor sanitation every two minutes and it could be prevented.
“Business can and must be part of the solution in addressing global challenges that affect us all,” said Unilever CEO, Paul Polman. “That’s why we introduced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to positively contribute to the societies where we operate. With our portfolio of health and hygiene brands, our understanding of consumers’ needs and our global reach, we are uniquely placed to help improve people’s lives.”
This target will be delivered by Unilever’s toilet cleaning brand, Domestos and the Unilever Foundation, by scaling up existing partnership programmes.
To deliver this commitment, Domestos and the Unilever Foundation are working with UNICEF to change sanitation behaviours and empower communities to become free of open defecation. Domestos is also partnering with social enterprise eKutir, to deliver market-based models that enable entrepreneurs to set up local sanitation businesses in rural areas, and running school programmes with locally-based NGOs, which improve school facilities and educate the next generation of children on the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
So far, the partnership with UNICEF has already reached over one million people with sanitation behaviour change interventions, and this will result in these individuals living in open defecation-free communities.
Domestos is also working with other leading organisations including DFID, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, WaterAid, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), World Toilet Organization, Water and Sanitation Africa and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) with the mutual aim to bring even greater speed and scale to sanitation solutions.
“Our commitment is the natural next step for Domestos,” said Jean-Laurent Ingles, Senior Vice President for Household Care, Unilever. “Domestos aims to ‘kill germs for good’ – that’s why we’re working to provide access to clean and safe toilets for people worldwide. Our commitment is about more than Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s about establishing a clear and sustainable link between tackling sanitation and our business ambitions. This is where the biggest opportunity lies for businesses, and where we can add greatest value.”
Of the UN Millennium Development Goals, the sanitation target is the most off-track. Too many interventions have failed because they have addressed only the hardware and have not taken the software – human psychology and behaviour – into account. Unilever is well positioned to tackle this urgent issue and has a proven track record of implementing and supporting WASH behaviour change programmes.
Unilever believes that universal access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is essential to helping lift people out of poverty. For this reason, we are advocating for a standalone goal on Water and Sanitation in the post-2015 Development Agenda. This must be supported by targets and indicators that recognise the importance of ending open defecation; improving hygiene practises and tackling current inequalities in access to WASH.
Without access to clean, safe toilets, affordable drinking water, and the adoption of basic hygiene practices – such as handwashing with soap – too many people around the world will continue to die from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea.
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