Unilever products donated to COVID-19 response at retail value

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A woman next to a machine on a toothpaste manufacturing line at a Unilever factory in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by: REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde

LONDON — Unilever’s multimillion-pound donation of soaps, hand sanitizers, and surface cleaners to the U.K.’s global coronavirus response is being made at retail value.

The U.K. government announced a £100 million ($123 million) campaign to promote personal hygiene with the consumer goods giant in March.

The cost is being shared by the Department for International Development and Unilever, each contributing £50 million, according to a press release.

Unilever’s contribution is made up of educational materials, hygiene communication and campaign expertise, and hygiene products. The products, including Domestos bleach and Lifebuoy soap, are being contributed by Unilever at retail value, according to DFID and Unilever statements.

That means the real value of the donation is likely to be considerably less, as retail prices are usually higher than the cost of production to allow for profits by both the company and retailers.

Another Unilever donation of “at least” €50 million worth of hygiene products to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum is also being made at retail value, according to the company.

Asked about the value of the contribution at cost, a Unilever spokesperson said: "As part of Unilever’s extensive response to the pandemic, we have been working with partners ... to get hygiene products to where they are needed most. For example, we have recently completed large shipments to UNHCR and UNICEF. As this is an ongoing humanitarian response, adaptive to the spread of the disease, the numbers and types of product change regularly.”

Unilever and DFID aim to reach up to a billion people with the project, named the “Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition,” particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, by providing hygiene products and running awareness-raising campaigns across media platforms. The project will also draw on behavior change and program development expertise from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is gaining pace in lower-income countries, but many people lack access to clean water and soap to do this properly.

Unilever has experience in promoting hand-washing, and the company says its programs have reached millions of people over the past decade.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process.