Unilever adapts lines to produce hand sanitiser as factories run nonstop to meet demand for essentials

Consumer goods manufacturer Unilever is working around the clock to meet unprecedented demand for its products as a result of COVID-19 panic buying.

The company behind brands such as Dove, TRESemme, OMO, Surf, and Continental is increasing production further by adapting its current manufacturing lines to produce sanitiser for use in hospitals, schools and other institutional settings.

Clive Stiff, CEO Unilever Australia and New Zealand said there has been an incredible response from the team, “especially those on the front line” in factories, distribution centres and stores.

“Our factories are operating 24/7 to try keep shelves stocked with essential food, personal care and cleaning products,” Stiff said.

“We are also working around the clock with our partners, customers, industry groups and government to identify ways our business can contribute to national efforts in tackling the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We will fight this together.”

With much uncertainty surrounding the health pandemic, Unilever has reassured staff that they will be protected from sudden drops in pay as a result of market disruption or being unable to perform their role, for up to three months.

“We will cover our employees, contractors and others who we manage or who work on our sites, on a full or part-time basis. This will apply to workers not already covered by government plans or by their direct employer,” Stiff said.

The company is also extending finanical support to suppliers with cash flow relief to the tune of AU$912 million.

This relief will take the form of early payment for the “most vulnerable” small and medium sized suppliers and extending credit to selected small-scale retail customers whose business relies on Unilever.

“Our strong cash flow and balance sheet mean that we can, and should, give this additional support,” Stiff said.

In addition, a product donation of approximately AU$91 million worth of soap and sanitiser will be made to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum. It is also supporting local communities with product donations, partnerships and handwashing education programmes,
delivered through national health authorities and NGOs.

“The world is facing its greatest trial in decades. We hope that our donation of €100m of soap, sanitiser, bleach and food will make a significant contribution towards protecting people’s lives, and that by helping to safeguard our workers’ incomes and jobs, we are giving some peace of mind during these uncertain times,” he added.

Stiff is retiring as CEO of Unilever ANZ at the end of the month, with T2 CEO Nicole Sparshott to take up the role in April.

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