LONDON — In a union that is the first of its kind, Unilever and the U.K.’s Department for International Development have joined forces to improve both the economic opportunities and health of people in developing nations. The newly created long-term partnership aims to alleviate problems of war and sanitation, create jobs and cultivate sustainable supply chains.
U.K. International Development Secretary Justine Greening and chief executive of Unilever Paul Polman signed a joint letter of intent that commits the two organizations to collaboratively working to advance the living standards of millions of the world’s poor and to move developing countries away from a dependence on aid by helping them become more self-sufficient.
“British businesses have the potential to make an enormous contribution to the fight against extreme poverty around the world. This partnership, the first of its kind, will combine our expertise and networks to help millions of the world’s poorest people find jobs, improve water and sanitation and, ultimately, end dependency on aid,” said Greening.
Together, Unilever and the DFID will unveil a joint initiative to use new models of social business to improve hygiene, health and employment prospects for 100 million people by 2025. Each organization will also donate over $8 million to a research and development program with the goal of creating inexpensive sanitation and safe drinking water.
The new partnership has also designated three primary focus areas: creating supply chain ecosystems for specific crops; ramping up currently pilot stage projects using market-based solutions, especially in the fields of hygiene, water, and sanitation; and the economic empowerment of girls and women.
“We’re committed to changing people’s lives around the world through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan,” said Polman. “This sets ambitious and measurable targets across our entire supply chain, such as empowering women, encouraging hand-washing to fight disease, and helping a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.”
Unilever is a huge global brand, with its products being sold in almost 200 countries and over half of its presence found in emerging markets. The company’s Sustainable Living Plan sets a target of doubling the size of its business while also cutting its environmental footprint and upping its positive social impact on communities.
“This is not just good for the developing world, it is good for Britain,” Greening said, reminding people that charity goes beyond morals and benefits all parties. “The frontier economies we will be working to improve are ultimately Britain’s future trading partners.”
The newly forged partnership comes in the wake of another collaborative effort between Unilever and the DFID. Recently, the two organizations, along with the Wood Family Trust and the Gatsby Foundation, agreed to co-invest in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The funding will create a major new tea plantation, increasing the incomes of possibly more than 3,600 tea farmers across 27 villages.
“It’s only through partnerships that we can achieve real scale. By working collaboratively with our suppliers, NGOs, and governments, we can make the biggest difference and go well beyond what’s possible in our own operations alone,” said Polman.
– Annie Jung
Sources: Unilever, Brand Republic Group, Sustainable Brands, Gov.UK