A new decade brings fresh impetus for us all to get things done, and it’s no different at RB. It has long been our aim to help people protect themselves from disease and germs, so they can have healthier lives and happier homes.
Last autumn, we became a Business Avenger in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), joining a coalition of other corporations to highlight the role businesses can play in achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Under SDG 3 ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’ we set ourselves the challenge to make Brazil free from mosquito-borne diseases through our insect-prevention system brand SBP. Mosquitoes bite people of all ages, including children, who are most vulnerable, spreading disease as they bite. According to the Ministry of Health in Brazil, there were nearly 1.6 million cases of dengue fever there last yeari. The chikungunya and Zika viruses, like dengue, are also spread by mosquitoes and neither of these diseases has a vaccine, so prevention is paramount and our challenge considerable.
RB first launched a product to help people protect themselves from insect-borne diseases in the 1880s. Today, SBP (also known as Mortein in some regions) is sold as spray, bait, lotion and plug-ins.
“Although mosquitoes are a seasonal problem, care has to be taken all year round. It’s about education and making prevention a daily routine throughout the year, not only in summer,” explains Rafael Gisse, head of pest marketing at RB. “This is our challenge.”
In response, those at SBP are threading a three-pillar strategy through everything they do: setting an example, educating and providing solutions.
The first pillar, “Setting an example”, includes the project Together Against The Mosquito, which sees RB partnering with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Red Cross. This initiative enlists volunteers in Brazil to clear mosquito breeding grounds, such as stagnant water pools. SBP products are given to local communities along with guides on how to prevent and detect outbreaks and how best to use the products.
“The volunteers demonstrate to local people how to use SBP correctly to protect themselves and their families. A mosquito can detect human blood from one kilometre away, so you have to know how to protect yourself,” says Gisse. Because children are vulnerable, the project also includes games that teach them how to look after themselves. “The great thing about children learning through play is that they go on to become important vectors of knowledge. They spread the good work to their friends and families,” he adds.
Since 2018, Together Against The Mosquito has helped 11,000 families and this year Gisse’s target is to help a further 30,000. The effects of the project are being monitored by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and will be used to find the best way to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Although the research is looking at communities in Brazil, the results – expected in 2022 or early 2023 – will benefit people worldwide.
The second pillar is education and focuses on a culture of prevention. “It’s about changing habits and creating greater awareness,” explains Gisse. “We’ve been really successful with one project – a play for children which was made into a cartoon last year and is still being broadcast on TV.”
The third and final pillar focuses on solutions – often creative and innovative. One example is SBP Alertas, a website that carries Brazilian rain forecasts and lets people know about local mosquito infestations. Rainwater can pool and become stagnant, making it a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes, so knowing where and when it has been raining helps people take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.
And, of course, there is the ongoing research and development of the SBP portfolio. In laboratories in India, Australia and Brazil, RB is constantly testing and improving various formulae on specially bred, disease-free mosquitoes to ensure the products are safe and as effective as possible.
As the new decade begins, RB is focused more than ever on helping to make Brazil free from insect-borne diseases. It’s a tough challenge, but by using the company’s own resources and harnessing the help of partners it can set the right example, educate and offer solutions.