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How Domestos is bringing to life its social purpose

World Water Week

With World Water Week underway in Stockholm, Matteo Rizzi, Global Social Mission Expertise Manager, Homecare, explains how his job is helping tackle the sanitation crisis while creating business opportunities for Domestos.

Business growth fuels our programmes

Matteo Rizzi

Global Social Mission Expertise Manager, Homecare

During his six years at Unilever, Matteo has worked with brands like Domestos, Surf and Sunlight to develop strategies and partnerships that help drive positive social impact.

My team helps brands – including Domestos, Surf, Sunlight and Living Hygiene – bring to life their social purpose by building the expertise required for them to be able to talk to consumers about a specific topic.

It is key that we look at ways to unlock business growth opportunities through our social impact work. This how we can keep fuelling our commitment to these activities and implementing programmes on the ground.

Helped over 5 million people so far

Take Domestos. The brand’s ambition is to help 25 million people get improved access to a toilet by 2020. We are the first company to make a commitment to improving sanitation on this scale, so we need the expertise and authority to encourage others to help us reach that target.

We work with academics, development agencies, NGOs and governments. Our partnership with UNICEF is a great example where we support its global sanitation programme, focused on behaviour change and capacity building.

Since 2012, through our Domestos brand, Unilever has helped over 5 million people gain access to a toilet through behaviour change interventions and capacity building initiatives.*

Changing behaviours

On top of the infrastructure challenges linked to building a toilet, culturally many people are used to defecating in the open. Simply owning a toilet does not mean that the entire family will use it.

So it’s firstly about getting people to realise they need one. And once they have it, everyone using it, all the time. A completely new behaviour must be adopted to ensure that these challenges can be overcome in a sustainable way.

Improving sanitation

Since 2009, Domestos has been helping improve sanitation. As a leading toilet hygiene brand, it has used its marketing reach to educate consumers about the importance of sanitation, while working with partners to improve sanitation for millions of people.

In addition to its partnership with UNICEF, it is running sanitation programmes and addressing toilet maintenance in schools in Vietnam, South Africa, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and has also set up set up a market-based model in Vietnam and India called the Domestos Toilet Academy. As part of this programme our partners train entrepreneurs to establish businesses to produce and install toilets, and provide financing for households, while generating awareness and demand.

I was in Bihar, India, recently – where we’re working with our partner PSI – and talked to one of the entrepreneurs. I was struck by his sense of pride. Not just because the job means he can provide for his family, but because he feels he’s doing something good for the community.

Watch this short video to hear from some of the people involved.

We’re also focusing on behaviour change which remains a huge challenge. We have been doing a lot of work with our experts and we are presenting our learnings (PDF | 6MB) at World Water Week. We hope this will encourage other partners to leverage our consumer understanding and expertise to scale up sustainable sanitation solutions.

Domestos in South Africa

Realising the state of sanitation in South Africa, Unilever’s ‘Cleaner Toilets. Brighter Future’ project was launched to raise awareness of the importance of functioning and hygienic toilet facilities. Over the past five years, the brand has been involved in toilet refurbishment programmes in South Africa schools and promoting hygiene education through this campaign.

The initiative forms part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which has set a bold target to improve the health and wellbeing of more than a billion people by 2020 and is fully supported at the highest levels within the business.

As part of the initiative, new toilets, sinks and taps were installed, walls were painted and doors were changed, benefiting 500 000 children year to date. In addition, the brand has provided the schools with cleaning material and toilet paper supplies in an effort to restore a basic human right to learners and to stress the importance of adopting healthy hygiene habits. Disease and infections related to sanitation in those schools are now down by nearly 70%, and attendance has soared to over 80%.

*These results are reported by our partners in accordance with their respective methodologies and includes reach from direct and indirect initiatives

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