Press release

British government and Unilever join forces to help world’s poor

Justine Greening has signed a joint letter of intent with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, committing to a new partnership.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Photograph of Justine Greening

International Development Secretary Justine Greening

Unilever and the Department for International Development (DFID) have formed a new partnership to create jobs, improve water and sanitation and develop sustainable supply chains in developing countries, Justine Greening said today.

The International Development Secretary will sign a joint letter of intent with Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman which commits both organisations to work together to improve the lives of millions of people in developing countries and help end dependency on aid.

The partnership is the first of its kind between a leading international business and the UK’s Department for International Development.

DFID and Unilever will launch a joint initiative to use new social business models to improve health, hygiene and livelihoods for 100 million people by 2025. They will also each contribute £5 million to a research and innovation programme focused on affordable sanitation and safe drinking water.

Justine Greening said:

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.

This is not just good for the developing world, it is good for Britain. The frontier economies we will be working to improve are ultimately Britain’s future trading partners.

Unilever, through its Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), aims to double the size of its business whilst reducing its environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact. Their products are sold in over 190 countries and more than half of the company’s presence is in developing and emerging markets. One element of this plan is their work facilitating hand-washing, sanitation and hygiene around the world.

CEO Paul Polman said:

We’re committed to changing people’s lives around the world through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. 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.

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.

The new partnership will have three main areas of focus:

  • Improving the job prospects and economic empowerment of women and girls;
  • Scaling up projects currently at the pilot stage using market-based solutions, particularly in water, sanitation and hygiene;
  • Developing supply chain ecosystems for specific crops.

The new commitment follows the recent agreement between DFID, Unilever, the Wood Family Trust and Gatsby Foundation to co-invest in a major new tea plantation in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The funding will boost the incomes of potentially more than 3,600 tea farmers spread throughout 27 villages.

DFID and Unilever have worked together in partnership with private sector and civil society organisations to achieve a number of common development goals. This includes continued work on the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, the Nutrition for Growth Summit in 2013 and improving water, sanitation and hygiene across the world.

Notes to editors

  • Justine Greening held a high-level meeting with Paul Polman today in advance of ‘The Forest and Climate Challenge’ event at the Ford Foundation, New York. The event, hosted by the Ford Foundation and the Climate and Land Use Alliance, brought together indigenous community forest leaders, heads of multinational corporations and high-level ministers for discussion about how to protect forests in ways that benefit local people, the climate and the bottom line.

About Unilever

  • Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries, reaching 2 billion consumers on any given day. It has 174,000 employees and generated annual sales of €49.8 billion in 2013. Over half of the company’s footprint is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (57% in 2013). Their portfolio includes Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s ice cream, Marmite, Magnum and Lynx.

  • Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) aims to double the size of the business whilst reducing environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact. It says the USLP is their strategic response to the challenges businesses face operating in an uncertain and volatile world. Its 3 goals are:
    1. Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being
    2. Sourcing all their agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020
    3. And decoupling their growth from their environmental impact
  • Supporting these goals, the company has defined nine commitments, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. For more information about the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at

  • Unilever was ranked number one in their sector in the 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index Series, they attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. In 2014 they led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey - for the fourth year running. Unilever was named LinkedIn’s third most sought-after employer worldwide in 2013. For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit

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Published 22 September 2014