Unilever Bangladesh has been supporting the nation in its fight against the coronavirus through various collaborations and partnerships and has contributed more than Tk350 million to the cause in the past four months.
A Unilever-founded global initiative called Transform is now supporting five Bangladeshi social businesses by providing nearly Tk22 million to help them pivot to the Covid-19 response, said press statement issued on Tuesday.
The Covid-19 crisis means there is a risk that without support, a generation of impact enterprises will fail, with potential for long-term negative social and economic effects.
Now, Transform is working quickly to build a platform that will help these enterprises prosper during and after the pandemic.
Transform is a unique joint initiative between Unilever, the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office' or 'FCDO' (previously known as DFID) and EY that identifies, funds, and delivers technical expertise to innovative social businesses.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, Transform set up a special 'Survive and Thrive' fund to help enterprises tackle Covid-19 response, change behaviors and improve hygiene practices through their networks and products.
The fund is also aimed at helping these enterprises to continue their services and deal with the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The five 'Survive and Thrive' beneficiary enterprises in Bangladesh are Jeeon, Drinkwell, Folia Water, Bhumijo and Maya, each receiving funds of Tk6.26 million, Tk5.11 million, Tk4.04 million, Tk1.81 million and Tk5.02 million respectively.
Previously, Transform has donated Tk22 crore to implement the innovative initiatives of 8 social businesses in the country – five of these were recipients of the Covid-19 response grant.
Mr Kedar Lele, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Unilever Bangladesh said, "Unilever and its employees have been living its purpose of making "Sustainable living commonplace" by practicing the multi-stakeholder business model."
"We have taken many measures to support Bangladesh in its fights against the pandemic and our brands have been working with government and citizens via development organisation, NGOs, civil society organisations," he added.
"We also recognise the challenges social businesses are going through during this crucial time and Unilever aims to build resilience for the future of social entrepreneurship.Through our global initiative Transform we are extending our support to five social business not only through funding but also through mentorship and guidance," he continued.
Transform supports new businesses that are creating products and services for the benefit of everyone.
In Bangladesh, these social enterprises are working to help alleviate poverty (SDG 1), promote good health and wellbeing (SDG 3) and provide clean water and sanitation (SDG 6).
Bhumijo: Hand touchless and hygiene wash facilities
Not washing hands after coming into contact with contaminated surfaces is one way in which Covid-19 is transmitted.
Bhumijo's Covid-19 response project, titled 'hand touchless and hygiene wash facilities' is responding to such risks by installing ten units of hand-touchless washing systems at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital healthcare facilities— both inside and outside.
This will directly benefit at least 450 doctors and nurses per day via 15 separate toilet units. And every day almost 900 patients and patient attendants will benefit from the three units of ward toilets and public toilets.
Jeeon's safe response
Jeeon Bangladesh Ltd is the largest digital sales channel for pharmaceutical and other health products in Bangladesh. For the last five years, Jeeon has worked on building capacity of pharmacies countrywide. It upgrades pharmacies with a simple app that builds their capacity and connects them to improve rural healthcare.
As part of Transform Covid-19 rapid proposal project 'Safe Response', Jeeon in partnership with the government's Access to Information (a2i) programme is providing an online certification course on prevention of novel coronavirus disease to educate informal health practitioners like pharmacies and village doctors.
Maya Covid-19 rapid response
Maya is a digital health assistant based in Dhaka providing telemedicine services and health advice. Maya's artificial intelligence (AI) based anonymous messaging solution provides affordable remote health advice, especially to women, while keeping their identities private.
After Bangladesh detected its first coronavirus case in early March, Maya accelerated its capacity to prepare for an increase in demand for its services.
Transform's Survive and Thrive fund allowed Maya to discount subscriptions to reach more customers with needed health advice, resulting in increases of 1300% in sales and 470% in revenues.
Monthly queries to Maya's information services increased to over 250,000, reaching over 2.5 million users every month. This telemedicine service will help reach low-income families who are most need.