Community Resilience

Unilever: one hand wash at a time

Tackling COVID-19 one hand wash at time. One of the world’s largest soap companies, and Business in the Community (BITC) member, Unilever has set out their map for how they plan to steer their course as a responsible business throughout the outbreak.

COVID-19: Our members taking responsible business action

It won’t be long before most people in the world know of a life lost, or a livelihood destroyed, by the coronavirus pandemic. Already, too many people have a heartbreaking story to tell, whether through illness or because they are facing the social or financial consequences of the world shutting down to all but the most essential activity. We have a social, medical and moral obligation to make soap more readily available worldwide. It’s going to take action from everyone in society to overcome this challenge, and we are ready to play our part and fight this together.

Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever

Education on effective handwashing

Hand washing and effective personal hygiene has been singled out as one of the single greatest lines of defence in slowing down the transmission of COVID-19 from person to person. Unilever has committed to tackling COVID-19 one hand wash at a time by providing a programme of education that will teach people to hand wash effectively, whichever brand they choose to use.

Making soap readily available

Unilever has also pledged to provide free soap, sanitiser, bleach and food to the value of €100m. About half of this fund will go to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum, which is supporting global health organisations and agencies with their response to the emergency. The other half will come from the many product donations, partnerships and handwashing education programmes Unilever are putting in place at a national and local level.

A global response

Initiatives in the US, India, China, UK, the Netherlands, Italy and many other countries are already under way. The lifebuoy team, for example, has been working hard to manufacture and distribute millions of bars of free soap to those most in need. This has required significant effort and co-ordination from those working in manufacturing, distribution and the research and development labs to ensure that they can keep up supply.

Facing the financial challenges

For customers and suppliers, Unilever has offered €500m of cash flow relief to support livelihoods across their extended value chain. They are doing this through early payments for their most vulnerable small- and medium-sized suppliers to help them with financial liquidity, and extending credit to selected small-scale retail customers whose business relies on Unilever, to help them manage and protect jobs.

Protections for the Unilever workforce

Unilever has promised to protect its workforce from sudden drops in pay, as a result of market disruption or being unable to perform their role, for up to three months. They will cover employees, contractors and others that it manages or who work on its sites, on a full- or part-time basis. This will apply to workers not already covered by government plans or by their direct employer. Unilever has ensured that this also includes those people not directly on Unilever’s payroll who work to keep its facilities secure, premises clean and who run its cafeterias.

WHAT IF ALL BUSINESSES CAME TOGETHER TO ADDRESS THE ESCALATING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19?