Lamplighter is key to addressing the top three health risks we have identified across our business: mental well-being; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking and obesity which can lead to conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury). In 2012 we implemented a global ‘No Smoking Standard’ for employees while at work. By the end of the year, compliance with the new standard reached 72%; we aim to reach 100% in 2013.
Lamplighter helps us to analyse our employees’ health risks and to put in place steps to control them. It is proving a valuable tool for safeguarding employees’ health, improving productivity and reducing costs.
Investing in employee health
We have increasing evidence that our Lamplighter health programme is a sound investment for our employees and for our business. Independent analysis shows a return on investment of €4.82 for every €1 invested in the programme in Brazil, based on combined healthcare and productivity savings over 2008-11. In Singapore the return on investment was €3:1 over 2009-12 and there has been a reduction in the health risk factors associated with higher healthcare costs, such as poor diet and fitness.
How do we encourage our employees to change their habits?
Our challenge is to encourage employees to change their behaviour and sustain new habits, through regular exercise, better eating habits and managing pressure, both at work and outside it. We have found that if we can keep employees motivated during the first six months of a programme of change, positive changes are likely to remain.
An important factor in the success of the Lamplighter programme is leadership behaviours. People at work often follow the patterns of behaviour set by their managers, so we started our roll-out with senior managers and asked them to encourage their teams to join the programme.
How do we measure the success of Lamplighter?
The single most important factor in evaluating the outcome of Lamplighter is the improved health risk status of employees. We start by determining the health risks that an individual faces. Risks are assigned to a number of factors: lifestyle (alcohol and smoking), non-modifiable (age and ethnicity), nutritional (eg consumption of fruit and vegetables), physiological (heart rate and body mass index), biochemistry (cholesterol and diabetes) and workplace (stress and engagement).
Under the programme, we rate employees as low, medium or high risk. Low risk means that a person has between zero and two risk factors – such as smoking or a failure to take any exercise. Medium risk is caused by two to four risk factors and high risk by five or more. We then educate and support people in making changes to reduce these risks. For example, in India the programme has reduced the number of employees categorised as ‘high risk’ (due to obesity or hypertension, for example) from 8% to under 4% over 2007-12.
An independent evaluation of effectiveness
We commissioned the Lancaster University Centre for Organisational Health & Well-Being in the UK to carry out an independent study of the effectiveness of the Lamplighter programme in 2009. The study was based on results from employees who had taken part in the programme at our London headquarters.
The analysis showed a number of significant improvements in employees’ health after participating in the programme, including positive improvements in eating habits, fitness levels and how engaged people felt at work. The Centre concluded that “the Unilever Lamplighter programme can be considered to be a good example of a comprehensive organisational wellness programme that incorporates both fitness and educational components, to improve individual health and well-being”.
Programmes such as Lamplighter have important short- and long-term health and business benefits. In the short term we expect to see healthier, more motivated and more productive employees, with lower levels of sick leave. The long-term benefits are in lower healthcare costs for companies and society.
In November 2011, Unilever Germany was named winner of the German Corporate Health Award (within the consumer goods/electronic category) for its corporate health management. This annual award was presented by the federal German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
In March 2010, Unilever received the Level II International Corporate Health & Productivity Management Award, made by the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM) – a global non-profit organisation – for our Lamplighter programme. This is the highest international level of recognition available.
Responding to pandemics & protecting employee health
Taking care of our employees’ health becomes even more crucial at times of pandemics. We have a clearly articulated plan of action to protect employee health and business continuity.
During the outbreak of the influenza A (H1N1) virus around the world in 2009 and early 2010, we implemented a co-ordinated response across all our operations.
We provided clear guidelines to our operations on how to respond to the pandemic and monitored travel in and out of the countries that were affected. We posted materials across our office and factory sites to highlight the simple steps individuals could take to protect themselves. We also made soap and hand gel widely available.
During the earlier outbreaks of avian flu, we ran business continuity exercises in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, China, Turkey and Egypt.
The lessons learned from the outbreaks of 2009 and 2010 led to a review and a strengthening of our guidelines for managing a future flu pandemic.
Our aim is to create a working environment supportive of employees’ personal lives, while meeting our business needs. One of the ways we do this is through agile working – giving employees the right working practices and technology to do their job anywhere, anytime, as long as the needs of the business are met. We also offer more formal flexible working arrangements such as job-sharing and flexible or reduced hours.
Read more on how we are reducing employee travel through agile working and telepresence in the Green IT & office impacts section.
How are we tracking occupational health performance?
We have adopted indicators to track our occupational health performance. Our leading indicators include the percentage of people who attend a health check as a proportion of total employees, and the number of sites that pass an audit. Audits contain safety and environmental questions and have been adapted to include questions on occupational health. These audits must be signed off by the country chairman.
Our lagging indicators include the number of work-related illnesses caused or exacerbated by work, and the number of days taken off due to work-related illness.
We plan to improve our data collection by incorporating our occupational health indicators into our existing health and safety IT system. This will allow occupational health doctors to record data ‘as it happens’. More timely reporting will also allow us to manage and reduce occupational illnesses. We plan to report globally for all Unilever sites once we are confident that the data is robust and accurate.
HIV/AIDS has an impact on our business, not only in terms of our own employees, but also in wider socio-economic terms in many of our markets.
Our approach to HIV/AIDS & occupational health
Occupational health is a worldwide responsibility for Unilever and covers:
access to primary healthcare
protecting health in the workplace
ensuring medical fitness for the job, and
actively promoting health and well-being.
Unilever HIV/AIDS programmes are an integral component of our Medical and Occupational Health strategy. We have a company-wide standard to reinforce our commitment to the care and protection of employees living with the disease and to help prevent new infections. The standard underpins Unilever’s approach to prevent discrimination against employees based on HIV status and to offer care and support when needed. It is based on the principle of treating HIV/AIDS like any other chronic disease and providing appropriate steps to combat it.
Focusing on education and prevention
As there is currently no cure for AIDS, education and prevention are critical to halt the spread of the disease and are the main line of defence against it. These should also be supported by counselling and sustainable programmes to care for those already infected. Therefore, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Unilever is committed to deploying effective programmes of health education (using our skills in communication) and to securing access to appropriate treatment for our employees at all stages of the disease.
Countries differ greatly in the quality of clinical infrastructure, in national health priorities and in the cultural sensitivities which surround HIV/AIDS. The role of the private sector varies accordingly – where public health systems prevail, for example, Unilever’s contribution will concentrate on education and prevention schemes.
Elsewhere, direct involvement in treatment and care may be necessary. Unilever's policies respond to these differences and adapt to fit local needs. In each country, health professionals are responsible for determining the mix of provision for employees in line with local cultural, social and operating requirements.
Our policies have been most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, where the company’s programmes have been developed over many years and are shared widely both with other companies and in society.
Over a decade ago we developed a roadmap for implementing our programmes of health education in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2010 we revised this to provide a more tailored roadmap dependent upon the HIV/AIDS risk in different countries. At the end of 2012 we published a ten-year review of our programme in HIV/AIDS.
Our approach to HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa
In sub-Saharan Africa, Unilever companies have developed a comprehensive framework to manage the HIV/AIDS programme, which addresses the needs of individuals at key stages of prevention and treatment. These are:
awareness (through educational programmes for all employees)
prevention (including prevention and treatment of occupational exposures and distribution of condoms)
acceptance of status (encouraging HIV-positive individuals to seek treatment), and
treatment and care (including access to anti-retroviral therapy).
In the case of pregnant women, we help with treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission. These policies are aligned with the key principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS.
Today, across our sites in sub-Saharan countries, the company offers free HIV testing, as well as education programmes to raise awareness, teach safe practices and prevent discrimination. We support the destigmatisation of HIV/AIDS through voluntary confidential testing by healthcare providers.
World AIDS Day: 1 December
Unilever marks World AIDS Day each year. Our sites contribute to global and national awareness campaigns using a combination of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS campaign materials and local NGO and government messages.
Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS
Given the scale of the challenge, our approach is to work in partnership with others, and to share expertise and learning. Unilever was one of the founding members of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC), which aims to mobilise the networks and resources of multinationals to combat and raise awareness of these diseases. Our Vice President for Global Medical and Occupational Health is a member of the advisory board of the GBC.
We work with a range of other international organisations on AIDS, such as the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, the Gates Foundation and the Institute for Health and Productivity Management. We also take part in international conferences such as the International AIDS Conference and share our learnings with other businesses – our programmes are available as models on both the Global Business Coalition and the Global Health Initiative websites.
Regional and national coalitions on HIV/AIDS
We support 11 business coalitions on AIDS across Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Unilever is a member of the Private Investors for Africa (PIA), a business coalition that brings together ethically like-minded companies with the objective of using their business experience in Africa to tangibly contribute to the continent’s future. A successful business requires a healthy workforce and PIA companies work together to mitigate health risks in the workplace. A working group compiled an HIV/AIDS roadmap with key performance indicators and regularly monitors progress against this. Currently, PIA is building on the success of this initiative to develop plans to address malaria, health and safety and non-communicable diseases.
We have been a member of the South African Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (SABCOHA) since its inception in 2007. Its aim is to co-ordinate a private sector response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to help companies, both large and small, in their efforts to combat the epidemic through workplace initiatives. The business environment offers a unique opportunity to target the millions of employees affected by the pandemic. We participate in SABCOHA initiatives and use this forum to share best practice with other companies.
Boosting HIV testing in South Africa
In April 2010, the South African government and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) announced the launch of a wide-scale HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign. This was a groundbreaking step by the government and will help to achieve the targets of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections.
The campaign aims to encourage 15 million people to take an HIV test. The business sector will contribute to this national target by mobilising 2 million people to check their HIV status. Unilever South Africa has fully aligned its practices with the government’s campaign, which aims to encourage 15 million people to take an HIV test.
Further to this initiative, in 2012 Unilever supported an additional 20,000 tests within KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) as part of the ongoing campaign, assisted by funding from the Global Fund on HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
External recognition in India
In India, the International Labour Organization recognised Hindustan Unilever with a commendation certificate for the leadership it had provided in the successful implementation of the ILO’s Prevention of HIV/AIDS in the World of Work programme.
Working with suppliers in Nigeria
Over 2007–09, Unilever, Guinness and Nigerian Breweries worked with the German organisation for technical co-operation (GTZ) to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on key suppliers in Nigeria. We conducted an assessment of how our suppliers generally perceived HIV/AIDS as well as their knowledge and workplace practices. The findings were used to select three companies who would most benefit from HIV/AIDS workplace programmes. We then helped them to develop and establish a suitable programme for their business.
We continue our work with a variety of international agencies across sub-Saharan Africa, in particular where we are involved in primary healthcare in plantations and remote locations.
Co-investment is an innovative approach that consists of leveraging private sector infrastructure and assets to benefit the community beyond the company’s labour force. In Tanzania, one example of co-investment is the collaboration of the national government, various international organisations, NGOs and the private sector – Unilever Tea Tanzania Ltd – to scale up HIV/AIDS treatment. Read more in our case study.
We also encourage our employees to support our efforts. For example, Unilever North America supported the 2012 AIDS Walks in May 2012. Around 150 employees took part, raising over $10,000 for AIDS research. In South Africa Unilever employees took part in the Two Oceans Marathon to raise money for a South Africa HIV/AIDS charity, Thokomala.