The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan for

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Health & hygiene

Lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation and hygiene cause millions of preventable deaths, particularly among children.

Girl washing hands using Lifebuoy

The World Health Organization estimates that tackling these closely interconnected issues has the potential to prevent at least 9% of global disease, and 6% of all deaths.1 Evidence shows that individuals will be healthier and happier, and communities more productive, if they have greater access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Improving access to these simple things is essential to lifting people out of poverty.

Our health and hygiene brands Lifebuoy, Domestos, Pureit, Qinyuan and Signal - aim to improve health through better hygiene. Our everyday products - soaps, toilet cleaners and toothpastes as well as our innovative water purifiers, can help prevent disease and improve people’s health and well-being, ultimately helping to save lives.

However, providing quality, affordable products is only part of the solution to improving health through hygiene - people need to change their habits too. Using our understanding of habits and expertise in delivering behaviour change campaigns at scale, we promote enduring change in the everyday behaviours that matter to health.


Targets & performance

We have set ambitious targets to meet people’s needs for good health and hygiene.

Health & Hygiene


By 2020, we will help more than a billion people to improve their health and hygiene. This will help reduce the incidence of life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea.


Around 482 million people reached by end 2015: 337 million people with Lifebuoy; 71 million with our toothpaste brands; 19.4 million through Dove self-esteem programmes; and 55 million with safe drinking water from Pureit. Pureit also provided 78 billion litres of safe drinking water.


We are on track to meet our 2020 commitment. By the end of 2015, we had reached around 482 million people. So far, Lifebuoy has reached 337 million people. 

Our Signal and Pepsodent toothpaste brands reached their 2020 target early, and by 2015 had reached 71 million people through our Brush Day & Night campaigns.

Dove also reached its target to improve the self-esteem of 15 million young people one year early – helping 15.8 million young people by 2014. By 2015 this number had increased to 19.4 million.

In 2014, we introduced a new target for sanitation, with Domestos working with UNICEF and the Unilever Foundation to help scale up sanitation improvement initiatives. We plan to include the impacts from sanitation initiatives in our 2016 Sustainable Living Report

Independently assured by PwC.

  • Achieved: 2
  • On-plan: 3
  • Off-plan: 1
  • %of target achieved: 0

Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance (EN) for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.


By 2020 our Lifebuoy brand aims to change the hygiene behaviour of 1 billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America by promoting the benefits of handwashing with soap at key times. 

In 2015, we extended our target from 2015 to 2020.

337 million people reached since 2010


Our major challenge is scaling up programmes cost-effectively. Since 2010, we have made strong progress, reaching 337 million people and developing models which more than halve the cost per contact. 

However scaling up to reach our 1 billion target is challenging and will take longer than anticipated. Our current programmes rely on direct contact interventions. Although great progress has been made in reducing the cost per contact while maintaining effectiveness, it is difficult to optimise costs further. This limits our ability to reach greater scale each year. We are piloting the next level of cost optimisation by using innovative models which can accelerate our progress towards our target. 

Working in partnership is also key to scaling up – by sharing expertise and resources we can reach more people faster.


Through our range of water purifiers, we aim to provide 150 billion litres of safe drinking water by 2020.1

Pureit provided 78 billion litres of safe drinking water by 2015.

Target revised 2014


Our range of water purifiers is already available in 12 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka and over 2005-2013 we provided 55 million people with safe drinking water. By 2015 we had provided 78 billion litres of safe drinking water.

In 2014, we expanded our reach in China with the acquisition of the Qinyuan Group, China’s largest water purifying company.

We have further enhanced our product offerings to appeal to consumers at different income levels and in different markets. The most affordable model costs around €20 in India (INR 1,600), with an ongoing running cost of just one euro cent for about two litres of safe drinking water. This is lower than the cost of boiling water and significantly less than buying bottled water.

1 We revised our target in 2014 to reflect what matters most for health – the ongoing consumption of safe drinking water. The new metric also allows us to capture the ongoing consumption of safe water (litres) that is a stronger surrogate measure of the ongoing health impact, versus just providing one-off devices. It improves on our previous metric of people reached, which measured sales of our purifiers multiplied by the average household size to give a number of people reached on average by each device. Over 2005-2013, 55 million people used Pureit.

Independently assured by PwC.


By 2020 we will help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by promoting the benefits of using clean toilets and by making toilets accessible.

New target 2014

In 2015 we progressed our programmes on community sanitation with UNICEF and advanced our Domestos Toilet Academy with eKutir and PSI.


In September 2014 we added this new target to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We are the first company to make a commitment to improving sanitation on this scale. 

Sanitation is one of the most complex areas of development. We are working with partners to roll out quality sanitation programmes with increasing speed and scale. In 2015, we continued our global partnership with UNICEF, scaled-up the Domestos Toilet Academy programme and rolled-out water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in schools.

In 2016 we are refining the reporting criteria of our impact on sanitation and will report on this target in more detail in our 2016 Sustainable Living Report.


We will use our toothpaste and toothbrush brands and oral health improvement programmes to encourage children and their parents to brush day and night. We aim to reach 50 million people by 2020.

We achieved our target early, reaching over 50 million people. By 2015, our total increased to 71 million. We reached over 4 million people in 2015.


Signal/Pepsodent’s mission is to improve oral health by encouraging families to brush morning and night using fluoride toothpaste. Research shows that long-term brushing habits are best forged during childhood, so we focus on instilling good habits from an early age, and encourage positive parental role modelling. This approach has proved very effective in changing habits and growing brand equity.

We are constantly looking for more ways to reach people efficiently and build further synergies within our campaigns. In March 2015, 25 countries celebrated World Oral Heath Day and invited thousands of people to pledge to Brush Day & Night, with 13 countries airing our Brush Day & Night TV commercial. We also launched a new school programme module to complement our work on the ground.

In 2016, we aim to engage with more people, particularly through our activities to mark World Oral Health Day.


With our Dove brand we are helping millions of young people to improve their self-esteem through educational programmes. 

By 2015 we aim to have helped 15 million young people.

15.8 million young people had received our help over 2004-2014. By 2015, 19.4 million young people had received help; 3.5 million took part in the programme in 2015.


Dove is our largest Personal Care brand and it continued to grow in 2015. We exceeded our 2015 target in 2014. In 2015, around 3.5 million took part in the programme, taking our total to19.4 million young people reached across 115 countries. 

We accelerated the reach and quality of the Dove Self-Esteem Project in 2015, developing cost effective, impactful implementation strategies. We reached 56% of young people with teacher-led programmes. Geographically, North America accounted for 36% of the 3.5 million people we helped, with accelerated growth in India and Latin America. 

The main contributors to our success were: our partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; scaling our digital presence; and the Project’s growth in new geographies. 

In 2016 and beyond we will expand our impact and extend to more countries, and will optimise the cost per intervention and quality so that we can reach more people in a meaningful way.


  • Achieved
  • On-Plan
  • Off-Plan
  • Of target achieved
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