Unilever and the United Kingdom government are launching a joint initiative to use new social business models to improve health, hygiene and livelihoods for 100 million people by 2025. They will also each contribute more than $8 million to a research and innovation program focused on affordable sanitation and safe drinking water.
The partnership is the first of its kind between an international business and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Unilever, through its Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), aims to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact. The company's products are sold in over 190 countries and more than half of its presence is in developing and emerging markets. One element of this plan is its work facilitating hand-washing, sanitation and hygiene around the world.
“British businesses have the potential to make an enormous contribution to the fight against extreme poverty around the world,” said Justine Greening, international development secretary at the DFID. “This partnership, the first of its kind, will combine our expertise and networks to help millions of the world’s poorest people find jobs, improve water and sanitation and, ultimately, end dependency on aid. This is not just good for the developing world, it is good for Britain.”
The new partnership will have three main areas of focus:
- Improving the job prospects and economic empowerment of women and girls;
- Scaling up projects currently at the pilot stage using market-based solutions, particularly in water, sanitation and hygiene;
- Developing supply chain ecosystems for specific crops.
The new commitment follows the recent agreement between DFID, Unilever, the Wood Family Trust and Gatsby Foundation to co-invest in a major new tea plantation in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The funding will boost the incomes of potentially more than 3,600 tea farmers spread throughout 27 villages.
DFID and Unilever have worked together in partnership with private sector and civil society organizations to achieve a number of common development goals. This includes continued work on the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, the Nutrition for Growth Summit in 2013 and improving water, sanitation and hygiene across the world. Reducing poverty is also a major focus.
Earlier this month, Unilever announced a seperate partnership with Solidaridad to improve the lives of one million people in Unilever’s extended supply chains. As part of this partnership agreement, both parties will raise a mix of public and private grants, credit and investments to finance the smallholder farmer initiatives. They also will share the cost of three full time employees to execute the joint program. This builds on Unilever’s and Solidaridad’s history of creating sustainable supply chains that already engage more than 150,000 smallholder farmers and workers in India, Mexico and Colombia.