Unilever’s got a planNovember 24th, 2010 | Posted by Sona Pai
Last week, Unilever announced its 2020 Sustainable Living Plan, with the financial goal of doubling its business while accomplishing three ambitious sustainability goals: to halve the environmental footprint of its products, help a billion people improve their health by encourage things like frequent hand washing and water purification, and source 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably.
The plan is available online, in an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly format. The site combines Unilever’s narrative for what it wants to do and how it plans to do it with supporting data, including greenhouse gas, water and waste reporting for individual uses of 70 percent of Unilever’s products.
A key point at the heart of the story Unilever is telling: Truly sustainable growth requires a symbiotic relationship between the company and its customers. Unilever says more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and half the water used in its products’ life cycle come from consumer use. When it comes to soaps, shampoos and shower gels, a full 95 percent of greenhouse gas emissions result from consumer use.
So, Unilever is not afraid of throwing a wet blanket on the hot shower, delivering the explicit message that changing consumer behavior is critical to meeting its goals.
Next year, in the U.S., Unilever’s “Turn off the tap” campaign will try to persuade consumers to shave minutes from their showers. How the message will be communicated to consumers is yet to be revealed—it certainly won’t be as simple as those back-of-bottle directions that got us to lather, rinse and repeat. But if the company succeeds, and I hope it does, it will set a new standard for how to not only engage, but involve, consumers in successful corporate responsibility.