COVID-19: Unilever partners with UK government on €56bn handwashing campaign

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

The campaign is set to reach one billion people worldwide, notably in developing markets like India and Africa (Getty Images)
The campaign is set to reach one billion people worldwide, notably in developing markets like India and Africa (Getty Images)

Related tags COVID-19 coronavirus Unilever Hygiene Soap

Personal care major Unilever is working with the UK government on a global campaign to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development will co-fund a €56bn (£50bn) campaign, set to reach up to a billion people worldwide through TV, radio, print, social and digital media channels. Under the initiative, Unilever would also provide more than 20 million hygiene products to developing countries, particularly areas with little or no sanitation.

“Such support is vital to stop the spread of the disease in the developing world and will also limit its further potential spread in the UK,”​ Unilever said.

Hygiene campaign targeting high-risk markets

Funding under the campaign would support British and international NGOs and other partners in running public awareness campaigns in specific markets, based on academic recommendations from experts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Notably, Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh would be important areas for the campaign with messaging tailored accordingly.

“The Department for International Development and Unilever will work closely with partners to curb the spread of coronavirus in vulnerable countries with poor health systems, saving lives in the process,” ​Unilever said.

The UK’s International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the government’s partnership with the personal care major would “make a real difference”​ in helping to protect developing countries and the UK from further coronavirus infections.

‘We have a responsibility’ says Unilever CEO

Unilever said the campaign would be led by two of its core hygiene and cleaning brands – Lifebuoy and Domestos.

Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, said both brands had a “proven track record of running hygiene awareness and education programmes”.

“As the world’s biggest soap company, we have a responsibility to help make soap and hygiene products more readily available, and to use our expertise to teach people to wash their hands effectively, whichever brand they choose to use,” ​Jope said.

Unilever had already pledged €100m to support efforts tackling the coronavirus outbreak, half of which was represented by soap and sanitiser donations to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum and other organisations. It had also established flexible payment programmes for its business partners and introduced measures to protect its workforce.

Jope said: “The world is facing its greatest trial in decades. …Our strong cash flow and balance sheet mean that we can, and should, give this additional support.”

Beauty responding to coronavirus outbreak

L’Oréal​ and Henkel​ are just a handful of the other beauty and personal care majors that have also pledged funding amid the ongoing crisis, both launching ‘solidarity’ plans in recent days.

The French Federation for Beauty Companies (FEBEA) also recently mobilised its members to ramp up production of government-approved hydroalcoholic gels​, amid a nationwide shortage in hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies.

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