With Singapore well into Phase Two of reopening its economy, people are eagerly resuming their daily lives, albeit with safe management measures such as frequent temperature screening and social distancing. While there is a palpable sense that the worst is over, Covid-19 continues worldwide with the emergence of second-wave infections.

Lifebuoy advises individuals to incorporate frequent handwashing with soap as part of their routine to combat Covid-19 and other diseases. In order to enable billions with the access to soap, dedicated, expert soap makers have been tirelessly working around the clock. 

Today, we salute these soap makers turned #hopemakers. Their contributions give us hope that through improved hand hygiene, we can one day win this war against Covid-19. Unilever, who owns Lifebuoy, Dove, Lux, Pears, Simple, Vaseline and much more has poured its thanks and gratitude towards its hopemakers into a touching video that shows how this silent army sends out hope to the world in batches, bottles and boxes of soap and hand sanitisers.

15,600 hopemakers in Unilever’s factories around the world step out of their homes to ensure that we can be safe in ours. With more than 2.5 billion people using their hygiene products daily, Unilever realises the importance of helping communities to improve hand hygiene.

Unilever’s Vice President of Supply Chain for Skin Cleansing and Skin Care, Ampy Aswin, explains that the Unilever group now produces around 100 million items a month, up from 700,000 a month previously. In tonnage terms, the increase since Jan this year was more than 600 times.

To help cope with the surge, Unilever even had to convert some of its other production sites to meet the unprecedented spike in demand. For example, its factory complex in Vietnam that comprises 4 plants to produce personal care products, home care products and foods under Unilever’s brands, was the first to make a major change, switching production to hand sanitiser in just 25 days.

“We’ve mobilised people, partners, retailers and resources to scale up our hand sanitiser production capabilities significantly. And we’ve delivered on the demands of retailers and governments across the globe who have been eager to secure supplies of this increasingly essential item,” says Aswin.  

Unilever has taken up the mantle to help the world, determined to share the gift of hope by donating over 20 million pieces of soap, sanitiser and hand-wash worldwide. Led by its soap brand Lifebuoy, the world’s number one selling antibacterial soap1, Lifebuoy has been on a mission to inspire good handwashing habits since the late 19th Century reaching over 1 billion people with improved handwashing behaviours over the last decade.

Singapore might be a small dot on the map, but it is not missing out on Unilever’s generosity. Tens of thousands of hygiene products have been gifted to the vulnerable elderly, as well as people working on the frontlines, including hospital workers, hawkers and taxi drivers.

Without the hopemakers, all of these would never have been possible.

But what makes a soap so powerful?

Handwashing has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent and reduce the spread of infections, including Covid-19.

This is because people frequently touch their faces without even realising it, such that germs, as well as viruses, can easily be transferred from one’s hands to enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. 

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, belongs to the family of enveloped viruses. Enveloped viruses have a jacket made up of lipids and proteins that allows them to exist and helps them to enter human cells when your hands touch your face,” says Samir Singh, Executive Vice President, Global Skin Cleansing at Unilever.

“Unfortunately, human skin is an ideal surface for germs, including enveloped viruses, to stick to. The proteins and fatty acids on the skin’s surface bind to the germs like glue. Water alone cannot effectively break this interaction. Soapy water, however, is very different. Washing your hands using soap and water has a dual effect. Soap cleverly targets and interferes with the enveloped virus’ outer membrane so it cannot bind to the skin and it also washes the virus away from your body and down the sink.”

In the face of this public health crisis, Unilever encourages everyone to ensure they are following WHO guidelines including washing their hands properly with soap.

Simple handwashing with soap is one of the longstanding primary weapons we have in our current fight against the spread of the infection. With that, we thank you, #hopemakers, for bringing us hope.

1 Calculation based on Nielsen unit sales information for the total markets (approximately 40 countries), latest 12 months available. Details available on request.