Unilever, Walgreens Teaming Up to Fund Clean Water in Kenya

A remote village in Kenya could have access to 15 million gallons of clean water by the end of the year — funded by Unilever shampoo, deodorant and body wash sales at Walgreens.

For the first time, the CPG giant and the pharmacy chain have partnered with Toronto-based social enterprise Me to We to fund a clean water project through its charitable arm, Free the Children. Unilever will donate 6 cents to the project and supply 5 gallons of clean water to a developing community for each sale of select products at Walgreens. Consumers can contribute to the campaign, called Give H2OPE to Others (#GiveH2OPE), by purchasing TRESemmé, Suave and Caress products through September 30, 2015.

The campaign’s fundraising goal is $200,000, which would roughly cover the costs of a borehole project that is currently underway in the impoverished village of Kipsongol in southwest Kenya. Kipsongol is located near an underground reservoir, but the village’s existing primary water source is the muddy Mara River. The borehole will go about 2 miles into the ground to access the reservoir.

Me to We co-founder Marc Kielburger describes such rivers in Kenya as comparable in color to chocolate milk, and said they are “certainly not clean, [with] high incidence of water-borne disease.” Free the Children has previously completed seven borehole projects with funding from private foundations. Kielburger hopes the partnership with Unilever and Walgreens will establish a new model for funding projects and encourage consumer participation.

Three million units of the Unilever products need to be sold to reach the donation goal, and the campaign is over a third of the way there. Customers can follow their contributions with the Me to We ‘Track Your Impact’ function by entering their purchased product’s UPC code. Prominent displays of the products can be found in each of Walgreens’ 8,200 US stores under the banner “One Purchase Gives Five Gallons.”

Todd Tillemans, Corporate Senior Vice President and President of Customer Development at Unilever, said he believes the partnership is yet another proof point of Unilever’s commitment to purpose-driven business decisions that accelerate both profit and positive social impact. He noted, "We're also seeing results that map against this belief as we watch our brands with a strong social purpose become larger business drivers."

Not only has Unilever continued to be a sustainability leader, it has proven it is good for business. For example, the company is spearheading a movement for industrial waste reduction following its achievement of zero waste to landfill across its global network. And the company recently partnered with various NGOs on a study on why women’s equality hinges on water. The Give H2OPE to Others campaign is the latest water-related program from Unilever.


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