Unilever Bangladesh is improving the health, hygiene and livelihoods of millions of Bangladeshis through child-focused mass education campaigns alongside the sale of their products
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2 January 2019 – Consumer goods giant Unilever Bangladesh has joined Business Call to Action with a commitment to educate an additional 5 million rural children on handwashing and tooth-brushing, ensure access to safe drinking water for over 1 million people, and ensure above minimum wage employment for thousands by 2021. Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$10 per day in purchasing power (in 2015 dollars) as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. Over 220 companies, ranging from multinationals to social enterprises, and working in 70 countries, have responded to the BCtA by committing to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions in developing countries through access to markets, financial services, affordable healthcare, water and sanitation, education and other critical services.
Around 20 million people, or 12 percent of the population, lack access to clean water in Bangladesh. As a result, they are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as cholera and other diarrhoeal illnesses, which can be prevented through good hygiene practices or by drinking potable water. Regular tooth-brushing with clean water also decreases the risk of dental diseases, particularly when started at a young age.
Unilever Bangladesh is helping to tackle this by complementing the sale of its health and hygiene products (soap, toothpaste, water purifiers) with mass education campaigns aimed to improve sanitary practices of millions of Bangladeshis. Unilever Bangladesh will educate consumers about the benefits and potential harmful consequences of their current habits. As the behaviour of consumers change, their standards of living will also improve.
Unilever Bangladesh has launched two mass education campaigns, each targeting a different health and hygiene practice. The first is the Lifebuoy “School-of-5” Rural Activation, which to date has reached over 30 million people all over Bangladesh. It teaches the importance of regular handwashing with soap among rural children to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea. Continuing this activity, Unilever aims to reach a further 5 million children by 2021. The complementary Pepsodent School Program, which has been running for over 15 years, encourages children to brush their teeth twice a day to prevent tooth decay and dental diseases.
“Our business model for growth revolves around the philosophy of doing well by doing good. And our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace. In almost all our categories, we serve Bangladeshi consumers with sustainable products which solve their real-life problems – and we educate them on behaviours and practices that improve their health and hygiene,” said Unilever Bangladesh CEO Kedar Lele.
Finally, through its Pureit campaign, Unilever will train waterpreneurs who will sell Pureit and make a commission on sales and maintenance services. The training for the waterpreneurs will be free, and the commission structure means that with regular sales and maintenance, they can earn consistent incomes.
These campaigns will have the dual benefit of improving lives while increasing awareness of Unilever’s products and thus driving sales. Unilever products are already present in 98 percent of Bangladeshi households.
“Being able to positively impact so many young lives at this scale while maintaining profit is an excellent example of how private sector can make a significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals,” said BCtA Head Paula Pelaez.
For further information
About Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched at the United Nations in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For more information, please visit www.businesscalltoaction.org.
About Unilever Bangladesh: Unilever Bangladesh’s vision is to make sustainable living commonplace. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan will help the company to double the size of the business while reducing the environmental footprint and enhancing livelihoods. The company actively seeks out partnerships in order to help change things on a global scale, tackling global issues such as deforestation and climate change, improving access to water, and better sanitation and hygiene practices, and supporting sustainable agriculture and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.