Social CSR: Unilever Uses Facebook App For Charitable Giving

Unilever Partners with Facebook to Launch WaterWorks App for CharityIn its latest example of corporate social responsibility, Unilever is partnering with Facebook through the not-for-profit WaterWorks program, which aims to provide safe drinking water to 500 million people by 2020.  The campaign is part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (launched in late 2010), but this latest effort looks to Facebook’s huge worldwide user base for help.

According to Unilever, WaterWorks – operated in partnership between the Unilever Foundation and Population Services International – will use “a ground-breaking Timeline application developed jointly with Facebook” to “connect people with means directly with people and communities in need.”

Facebook users will be able to donate anything from 10 euro cents to 1 euro daily, using Facebook credits on a Facebook app.  Those looking to donate through will also be directed to the Facebook app.

Donors can contribute directly to individual WaterWorkers, who then distribute Unilever’s PureIt water purification products through their community, according to AdAge.  The app has a fun interactive quality, in that donors will receive photos and updates from the aid workers, people, and villages they help to support.  It’s designed to make charitable giving “more social, more personal and more relevant.”

“At Unilever, we believe that small, everyday actions can add up to a big difference; and that the power of social connections can drive real change around the world. We want to leverage the power of the social graph and the ripple effects that each person’s actions can create, to inspire and enroll many more to make a difference,” said Unilever Global Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed.

The campaign is one of the first Timeline applications for charitable giving and it “makes it easy for Facebook users to discover the big difference their small donations make.”

How will these efforts pay off for the brand?  AdAge asked Mr. Weed how WaterWorks would help Unilever’s brands and business.  His answer? “Not at all.”  And while the campaign will use Facebook ads, everything is run through the Unilever Foundation, a non-profit organization.

However, AdAge points out that Unilever gets 54% of its sales from developing markets, and gaining access to clean water is one of the biggest problems faced by Unilever’s potential consumers in those areas.  By helping to provide fresh drinking water, Unilever is not just creating a sense of goodwill around the brand; the WaterWorks program may help to sustain a significant portion of their consumer market.

Companies are continually finding new ways to practice corporate social responsibility (CSR). Will Unilever’s example – using a Facebook app and providing personal feedback from each donation – lead to greater participation?