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Unilever Takes Clean Water Mission to Facebook Users

Unilever, through the Unilever Foundation, in partnership with PSI (Population Services International) has launched a not-for-profit program that will engage Facebook users to help provide safe clean drinking water to communities in need around the world.

Waterworks will operate through a ground-breaking Timeline application developed jointly with Facebook. Initially launched as a beta pilot, Waterworks is among the first Timeline applications for charitable giving, connecting Facebook users around the world with real individuals and communities in need. People will be invited to sign up to Waterworks and connect the application to their Facebook Timeline. They will partner with a PSI-trained Waterworker and choose a small daily donation – as little as €0.10. Their funds will directly support the water-poor communities, where Waterworkers will provide education about the benefits of clean drinking water and distribute life-saving Pureit water purifiers and sachets to families in need.

“PSI is excited to be working with innovative partners like the Unilever Foundation and Facebook to launch Waterworks™ - a clean water program rooted in community-based knowledge and action,” says Karl Hofmann, President and CEO of PSI. “Our Waterworkers will be women from the communities in which they will work – mothers, sisters, and aunts who will be able to have trusted conversations with their families and friends about health issues that affect the community. Through participation in Waterworks they will gain not only a steady income but also receive training on communication techniques and local health issues, as well as access to clean water for their own families.”

In its initial stage, PSI will train 75 Waterworkers who will educate the neediest people in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India about the need for clean water and its opportunity to improve the health and wellness of their community. They will distribute life-saving Pureit sachets and purifiers to these families.

Each Waterworker will be given a mobile phone, preloaded with a custom Waterworks J2ME application that will allow her to take photos and record stories. She will share these updates back to her Partners on Facebook, demonstrating how their funds are making an impact in her community, and inspiring her Partners to continue giving and supporting her work.

Since the Waterworks app is "social by design," a community of support will form around each Waterworker, as powerful stories have the opportunity to impact and influence friends and millions of friends of friends. The Waterworks application, developed by Betapond, makes it easy for Facebook users to discover the big difference their small donations make. The application makes charitable giving more social, more personal and more relevant. It sends personal notifications to donors, enabling a real connection between an individual Waterworker and the Facebook users who supported her.

Water is the source of life, but almost 800 million people don't have access to clean drinking water. Preventable water-borne diseases, such as dysentery and diarrhea, are a particular threat to the weakest members of society: a child dies from water-related illness every 20 seconds.

Keith Weed, Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, explains, “In July 2010, the United Nations declared that safe and clean drinking water is a human right; we share this belief and have made a public and ambitious commitment through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to provide safe drinking water to 500 million people by 2020. But to overcome a challenge of this scale, we cannot achieve this change alone; we need to work in partnership.”

“At Unilever, we believe that small, everyday actions can add up to a big difference; and that the power of social connections can drive real change around the world. On Facebook, nearly a billion people take small actions every day, they connect to the individuals and organizations that matter most to them and they discover new things through their friends. We want to leverage the power of the social graph and the ripple effects that each person’s actions can create, to inspire and enroll many more to make a difference,” adds Weed.

As part of Sustainable Brands' May Issue In Focus on "Information Technology as a Platform for Sustainable Innovation," guest editor Bart King interviewed Gail Martino, Manager of Emerging and Disruptive Innovation at Unilever, about the recent launch of the company’s open innovation platform.

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications. 


Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also an associate editor for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_kingGoogle+

[Read more about Bart King]


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