Unilever uses Collaboration to Develop Clean Water Solution
Recognizing the crisis in developing nations caused by water-borne diseases, Unilever decided to address the problem of creating a safe and affordable source of clean water, by working with technology partners, government agencies and public health institutions.
Purell is the breakthrough technology that was developed out of this collaborative effort. Launched in 2005, Purell is now bringing safe drinking water to millions of people, bringing relief from jaundice, typhoid and cholera.
The device provides water that is equivalent to boiled water, but without requiring the use of cooking gas or electricity. Developed with the input of more than 100 scientists, the final solution was a four-stage process involving a microfibre mesh to remove visible particles, a carbon trap to remove parasites and pesticide residue, a release of chlorine to kill viruses and bacteria, and lastly a polisher to remove residual chlorine.
The cost per unit is €32, and the operating cost is about half a euro cent per litre, making it the most affordable alternative available.
A battery life indicator tells users when to replace the battery, and water flow is halted if the indicator turns red.
As well as working with the above agencies, Unilever partnered with a firm to design and manufacture the units, collaborating on design issues that came up during the development process.
The product quickly met with the approval of doctors and public health experts and was endorsed by accredited institutions such as the Sundaram Medical Foundation, the Indian Public Health Association and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the toughest regulatory body in the US, also lent its approval.
Adding to its credibility, the Purell units have receive numerous awards including the 2008 UK Trade and Investment India Business Award for innovation, the UNESCO Water Digest Water Award 2008/09 for the best domestic non-electrical purifier, and the 2008 Golden Peacock Product/Service Innovation Award.
By reaching outside of its own capabilities, Unilever was able to bring a better quality of life to millions of people who previously had no access to clean, affordable drinking water.
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