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Putting purpose into practice: our Covid-19 response


Across our business and around the world, we took action to share support and solidarity during the pandemic this year. Here’s how…

An image of a child washing hands with Lifebuoy soap

The Covid-19 pandemic has defined 2020 for millions of people. At Unilever it’s certainly had a significant impact on our business, our people and the international communities we reach. As the world changed, so did we.

Here are just some of the ways we took action, setting out to make a positive impact through the crisis.

Visit’s Covid Response hub to read the details behind these highlights, along with many more stories.

€100 million in product donations

Product donations were part of our efforts. In March, we pledged to donate €100 million worth of products to support vulnerable communities through the pandemic. Unilever CEO Alan Jope said at the time: “It’s going to take action from everyone in society to overcome this challenge, and we are ready to play our part and fight this together.”

To deliver on this commitment, Unilever teams worked closely with the World Economic Forum’s Covid Action Platform and a number of NGO partners, leveraging our scale and supply chain to ensure products reached people in need across the globe.

In mid-December, the final shipment of soap, disinfectant, sanitiser and food products was sent out.

Creative purpose-led campaigns

As well as donating a range of products, our brands also used creativity to reflect the challenges of the year. Memorable campaigns from our Beauty & Personal Care division included Dove’s ‘Courage is Beautiful’ film, a moving tribute to frontline health professionals, 2020’s undisputed heroes.

For Lifebuoy, promoting handwashing as a way to help prevent disease is nothing new. The brand marked the milestone of reaching 1 billion people with handwashing education programmes in 2019. During the pandemic, Lifebuoy shared this message even further, through simultaneous public service announcements across 17 key markets and by working with almost 200 international influencers who shared handwashing tips on a range of social media platforms, reaching millions of engaged followers.

In our Foods & Refreshment division, Knorr rapidly created Knorr@Home content for social media, offering people store-cupboard recipe ideas and tips to create easy restaurant-style meals at home during lockdown. Ben & Jerry’s committed €2 million to support small business franchises across the US and communities local to its headquarters in Vermont. And Hellmann’s launched its Stay-In(spired) campaign, sharing inspiration and hacks to help food go further and use up leftover ingredients in tasty lunches or dinners.

In our Home Care division, we launched disinfection solutions in more than 60 markets and our Domestos brand shared a global Public Service Announcement on safe disinfection in the home. The campaign included a new TV ad to increase awareness of the importance of targeted hygiene at home using bleach to disinfect surfaces regularly.

Partnerships for the new normal

As the national lockdown eased in the UK, we announced a partnership with Uber to provide hygiene kits for drivers. These include Cif Antibacterial Multi-Purpose Spray and Lifebuoy alcohol-based sanitiser gel to keep their vehicles sanitised between passenger pick-ups. This partnership has since reached more countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

In July, we launched a partnership with hospitality company OYO, providing hygiene kits for guests and hygiene education and products for staff at OYO properties in India. Selected OYO properties now provide products from our Lifebuoy, Domex (Domestos), Sunlight and Cif brands to both staff and guests, which can create a cleaner and more hygienic experience from check-in to check-out.

And when it became clear that good hand hygiene could help play a part in reducing the spread of infection, we moved quickly to meet the rapidly rising global demand for sanitiser.

In a matter of weeks, we adapted our production lines and partnered with several new factories, significantly scaling up production of sanitiser that met the World Health Organization’s recommended standards of a minimum of 60% ethanol content.

Breakthrough research and development

In November, we were pleased to announce encouraging news from Microbac Laboratories, an independent and internationally accredited testing facility working on behalf of Unilever Research Laboratories.

Test results found that rinsing with mouthwash containing CPC Technology for 30 seconds is effective in reducing the viral load of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, by 99.9%.

The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose, which has been detected before, during and after the acute phase of illness, as well as in asymptomatic cases.1 Therefore, reducing the viral load in the mouth could help to reduce transmission. The findings indicate that mouthwash could become an important addition to other protective measures like handwashing, physical distancing and mask wearing.

Read the full story about our mouthwash technology research here

1 WHO: and L.L. Fernandes et al., Journal of Dental Research, 1–9

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