What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?
Put simply, growth. We’ve created a very clear link between tackling this critical issue and our business ambitions. The social issue is clear: the business opportunity for us is equally clear. Ideal consumption for handwashing to reduce illness is around 20 bars of soap annually, yet 1.5 billion people consume just eight bars or fewer. This opportunity is more marked because of the rapid pace of change in emerging markets.
How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?
The mission forms an integral part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and being so closely allied to the overall corporate strategy means we can call on colleagues around the world in corporate, public affairs, HR and marketing teams to lend their expertise and time.
We work hand in hand with brand and advocacy teams to reach out to consumers and organisations, while our work with internal communications teams encourages employees to get involved.
Employees around the world have gone into schools to teach children about handwashing. Some have even been part of successful world record attempts!
Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.
Long term, the success of the Lifebuoy Social Mission in doing good AND increasing sales means it becomes self-sustaining.
Since we launched the programme, we have seen a significant sales uplift, this is set to continue. This allows us to continue to be a positive force for good in the world, in the interests of all our stakeholders – our investors, our consumers, our employees and the communities where we operate. We are also in very advanced discussions with pioneering types of partnership that include fund-matching from private foundations to expand our programmes.
Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.
If Unilever achieves its sustainability targets but no one follows, we will have failed. Consequently, we’re working with other organisations, such as the Consumer Goods Forum, the World Economic Forum, the Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, NGOs such as UNICEF and USAID and local and national governments, to drive cross-sector change.
What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?
As the programme ties in with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we haven’t faced push-back.
On the contrary, it has created positive energy and momentum inside our business. Many employees want to get involved because they have a genuine desire to give something back – 20,000 employees volunteered in 2012. This in turn builds pride in the company they work for.