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Health and Wellbeing

School children holding up Lifebuoy handwash sachets as part of a rural school activation programme.

A holistic view of health and wellbeing

We believe physical and mental health, wellbeing and inclusion are crucial contributors to a wider view of what good health is. This became even more obvious as COVID-19 put increasing restrictions on our social connections and took its toll on wellbeing.

Extending our reach

Taking the learnings from our Unilever Compass strategy– through which we reached 1.3 billion people globally with our health and hygiene initiatives – we have defined how we can go further to deliver impactful programmes. We are using our scale and reach, as well as the power of our brands, to develop deeper and more creative programmes and partnerships.

We have long run programmes across the world to educate children and parents about the importance of handwashing, especially in the early years. We support safe sanitation and good surface hygiene habits, whether people are at home, in school or at work. And we promote the importance of toothbrushing for self-care (helping the 3.9 billion people affected by tooth decay around the world). We have helped people build self-esteem and helped women get on the career ladder with skills and training.

Our health and wellbeing goals in Bangladesh

We want to take action through our brands to improve health and wellbeing, reaching millions across the nation and inspiring behaviour change. We focus on:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Oral hygiene
  • Confidence and Self-esteem

Our commitment to health, confidence, and wellbeing in Bangladesh

At Unilever, we hold the belief that a society that is more inclusive will lead to better health for all. Our commitment to health, confidence, and wellbeing dates back to the 1920s, when we began promoting handwashing during the Spanish flu pandemic. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we joined forces with the government of Bangladesh, hospitals, not for profit organisations and civil society, to improve the health and wellbeing of the people. Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, we impacted more than 100 million Bangladeshis.

However, our commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of our consumers started years back. For over three decades, we have run programmes across Bangladesh to educate children and parents about the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene like tooth brushing.

Along with driving positive behaviour changes, we formed partnerships to ensure safe sanitation and hygiene for people who need it the most. Through our purpose-led brand campaigns and programmes, we are now working towards building the self-esteem of young women in Bangladesh. Our approach involves utilising our brand equity to create awareness and forming effective partnerships to keep building a healthy and confident Bangladesh.

As a responsible business, we have a unique responsibility to make a positive impact on the lives of our consumers. That is why we work in the fields of hygiene behaviour, mental wellbeing and self-esteem, and access to safe water and improved sanitation.

Every year, our strongest brands, such as Lifebuoy, Pepsodent, Pureit, Domex, and Dove conduct large-scale awareness campaigns through different channels. These campaigns are not only raising awareness about important issues, but they are also inspiring people to take action. We believe that when people are empowered to make positive changes in their lives, they can help create a better world for everyone.

H for Handwashing

Three out of every ten people worldwide lack access to basic necessities like soap and water, according to UNICEF. This lack of access to clean water and soap contributes to the spread of deadly diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are two of the leading causes of infant mortality worldwide. Each year, more than 780,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea, and 440,000 from pneumonia. However, these deaths are preventable with simple interventions like handwashing with soap and water. In order to reduce infant mortality rates, we need to ensure that everyone has access to soap and clean water.

Handwashing behaviour change is a major work area of Lifebuoy and we have reached over 11 million school children since the 1990s with our Handwashing Behaviour change programme. Since 2011, the programme has been structured as Lifebuoy School of 5 and has reached over 11 million school children since then. The research driven programme teaches children the right way of handwashing and form habits through a 21-day cycle at schools.

We have also collaborated with the Government of Bangladesh and BRAC- the largest NGO of the world to promote handwashing. To celebrate Global Handwashing Day (GHD) 2020, Lifebuoy launched the 'H for Handwashing’ campaign with the aim of ensuring support from key policymakers and influencers, while also gamering massive awareness and support from the general population.

The campaign had two core pillars — an advocacy wing that aimed at the policymakers, and an amplification wing towards the consumers. In an effort to combat the spread of disease, the Lifebuoy team launched a petition site to garner support for the ‘H for Handwashing’ movement. For each signature received, Lifebuoy pledged to teach 5 children the correct way of washing hands.

We are proud that what we started as a simple handwashing programme in the 1990s, has evolved into a mission to improve people's hand hygiene and to advocate for better hygiene habits. Lifebuoy has taught handwashing techniques so that students can keep themselves - and their communities - healthy.

Cleaner sanitation and better hygiene

Bangladesh has made immense progress in improving access to water and sanitation services in recent years. In 2018, 74.8% of the population had a handwashing station with water and soap on the premises. This represents a significant increase from previous years and is a testament to the government's commitment to improving WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services. However, the major WASH challenge Bangladesh faces is improving the practices and quality of WASH services.

At UBL, we believe that access to good hygiene and sanitation should be a basic human right for everyone. We are fighting the dangers of unsafe sanitation and poor hygiene by helping millions of people get access to clean, safe sanitation facilities.

By working with others, we know we can have an even bigger impact on sanitation. Through Domex, we have partnered with local and global partners to drive our message: further as well as widen our scope to serve our greater community.

Domex works to improve access to appropriate and equitable sanitation and hygiene, which is the focus of SDG 6.

We launched our initiative with a campaign to deliver 14,000 packs of toilet-cleaning products to 200 schools in 2019 with the goal of ensuring better sanitary practices in schools across the nation. Through this campaign, titled "No More Dirty Toilet", we inspired change by raising awareness in schools on the importance of good hygiene and sanitation, pushing the students to implement these learnings both at school and at home, and encouraging the citizens to keep toilets clean.

Healthy smiles for the nation

Oral hygiene is important for people of all ages, and yet according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), oral diseases affect one in two people all over the world. It is appalling that in the 21st century, dental decay remains the most prevalent chronic disease throughout the world affecting both children and adults. Oral diseases can not only threaten healthy smiles, but also enhance the chances of other diseases and lower self esteem.

Pepsodent is driven by its purpose to unleash the power of healthy smiles by eradicating oral disease for everyone. We believe that this is achievable through education, awareness and access to quality dental care. Pepsodent is credited with revolutionising oral hygiene practices in Bangladesh by running awareness programmes to encourage children and their parents to brush day and night using fluoride toothpaste through Dentibus.

Dentibus is a modified bus with a mobile Dental facility which visits schools. Dentists play a vital role in our mission, and we are committed to supporting them in their efforts to improve oral health in Bangladesh. We are also facilitating the dentist community and connecting people with certified dentists.

Confidence is beauty

There are a number of factors that can affect people's wellbeing, including the social, economic, cultural, and physical environment in which people live their lives. Beauty and confidence are two aspects that go hand-in-hand. Globally, over half of the girls do not have high body esteem. When girls do not feel good about the way they look, they opt out of important life-building activities and may never reach their full potential.

Seven in ten girls will not stick to their decision and eight in ten girls avoid seeing family and friends. This is not only detrimental to girls but society also misses out on the next generation of future female leaders.

To address these challenges, the Dove Self Esteem project (DSEP) will help reach 250 million young people globally by 2030. Dove's social mission, through the Dove Self-Esteem Project, is to ensure the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look and help them reach their full potential Dove helps young people across 152 countries build their self-esteem and a positive body confidence with educational tools, partnerships and resources.

Bangladesh is endowed with young demography as children aged 0-17 years constitute 36 per cent of the total population in Bangladesh. This large number of children will join the workforce in the coming decades and play a vital role in the country’s achievement of its national goals, such as Vision 2041. Therefore, ensuring children’s wellbeing, self-esteem and upholding their rights must be considered as national priorities in Bangladesh.

UBL partnered with Plan International Bangladesh, Eco-Social Development Organisation (ESDO) and Teach For Bangladesh (TFB) to introduce the Dove Self-Esteem Project. The project was launched on “International Day of the Girl Child” on 11th October 2021.1n 2022, we aimed to introduce DSEP among 15,000 adolescents in collaboration with Plan International Bangladesh and ESDO. The project also targeted teachers, peer leaders and parents, sensitising them regarding children’s self-esteem and body confidence.

At the end of the project, about 95% of the students understood the necessity of body confidence and 94% believed in the message of not comparing one’s beauty with others.

Our Stance

The government of Bangladesh is taking progressive measures to achieve Universal Healthcare Coverage by 2030 and investing in Population, Healthcare and Nutrition (PHN) services delivery throughout the country. However, to achieve Life Expectancy and mental health targets, mass awareness, behaviour change and affordable solutions would be required. We at UBL are committed to contributing to this cause by continuing and scaling our initiatives to make people aware about healthy habits, create access to information, contribute to innovation-led models to provide better, affordable solutions and improve mental wellbeing to improve the health and wellbeing of our consumers.

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