Unilever is establishing a new social mission and commitment to improving the health and well-being of people living on the streets that it calls “The Right to Dignity.”
The company is partnering with mobile shower organizations across the country to help provide reliable, safe and free access to showers and other basic hygiene needs—services often unrecognized but proven to be critical in improving welfare. The launch was marked by a convening of a “committed group of changemakers, advocates and experts united in an effort to positively impact people experiencing homelessness” in New York City.
Speaking at the event, Unilever CEO Paul Polman said, “We have long known about the many challenges we are facing as a society: inequality, poverty, youth unemployment and climate change. The list is long. I have always believed that business has power to influence these issues and the communities impacted. Here in the U.S., we know it is critical to address the issue of inequality and homelessness.”
Unilever says it has been on a mission to make cleanliness commonplace and believes that no one should be denied access to hygiene resources. With the lack of consistent, safe hygiene services available to those living on the streets and the transformative impact these services can provide, the company saw an opportunity to make a difference.
“While we know homelessness is a complex and systemic issue, we’ve learned that health and hygiene play a critical role in helping people feel able to move through the world and be seen,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, EVP and COO of personal care for Unilever North America. “For this reason, dignity is at the core of the mission Unilever is building with today as an important first step.”
To better understand how it could make an impact, Unilever partnered with Lava Mae, a mobile shower organization, which has provided more than 58,000 showers to more than 15,000 guests in California since 2014 and has also inspired 100-plus mobile hygiene services modeled after its own.
Over the past year, Unilever has provided direct financial support for Lava Mae as well as like-minded organizations such as Streetside Showers, Organization of Hope, Project Outpour and Brooklyn Community Services. These investments will help build additional mobile shower units and sustain operations in San Francisco, Dallas, Baltimore, Charlotte and Brooklyn respectively. The long-term goal is to build a nationwide network of providers delivering regular, safe, free hygiene and well-being services to all those experiencing housing instability.
Unilever, based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is a global supplier of beauty and personal care, home care and foods and refreshment products with sales in more than 190 countries. Unilever employs approximately 8,000 people in the U.S. generating more than $9 billion in sales in 2017.