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Does Lifebuoy Have the Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program?

Does Lifebuoy Have the Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program?

Sarah Steimer

My current nominee for the best social program ever is “Help A Child Reach 5,” a handwashing program sponsored by Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap, a brand that virtually disappeared from the U.S. a half century ago. Lifebuoy is far from dead internationally. The brand is dominating the market in India and other emerging countries and ranks fourth—falling only behind Coca-Cola, Colgate and Nestle’s Maggi food brand—among global brands, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

With “Help a Child Reach 5,” Lifebuoy’s mission is to save lives by spreading the importance of good handwashing habits around the world. The program’s mission is to get 1 billion people to develop better handwashing habits in order to prevent many of the 2 million deaths of kids under 5 that occur each year. The campaign is driven by two facts from Lifebuoy: 1.) Every year, 2 million children fail to reach their fifth birthday because of illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia. 2.) Handwashing with soap at key occasions can reduce diarrhea by 45% and pneumonia by 23% worldwide, thus reducing infant deaths substantially.    

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A pivotal event in Lifebuoy’s “Help a Child Reach 5” effort was the implementation of a showcase program in Thesgora, a 1,500-home, diarrhea-prone Indian village. The program, which showed a reduction in diarrhea from 36% to 6%, helped Unilever decide to accelerate program expansion throughout India and in 24 other countries. 

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Sarah Steimer is managing editor of Marketing News. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.