Brands offer lifestyle advice

Sensemaking / Brands offer lifestyle advice

Unilever is helping households lower their food bills and cut their waste in a new social experiment.

12 Feb 2013

Unilever is helping households lower their food bills and cut their waste in a new social experiment.

Unilever has launched a social experiment that it hopes will change our approach to food shopping and waste disposal. Commentators are welcoming the project as an important development in brand communications around sustainable living.

Having calculated that customers generate 70% of its environmental footprint, the fast-moving consumer goods firm has recruited 12 families to participate in its ‘Sustain Ability Challenge’. Over the next two months, Unilever will help participating households lower their food bills by 15% and reduce waste by 25% through initiatives such as creating shopping lists and using up leftovers in recipes. It will gather data about the families’ attempts via an online portal, and share its findings with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, local government and sustainability organisations.

Besides shrinking the four million tonnes of edible food thrown away every year by British households, the initiative aims to counter public perception that sustainable living is expensive. According to insights group The Futures Company and waste-reduction organisation WRAP, which are partnering Unilever in the challenge, 68% of UK adults cite cost as the main barrier to environmentally conscious lifestyles – and yet the average family throws away around £680 worth of edible food every year.

Unilever’s Director for Savoury, Dressings & Snacking, Nora Costello, eagerly anticipates the consumer insights she hopes the project will reveal. “The challenge will help us understand how, for instance, we could adapt information on our packaging. Long-term, this experiment will give us insights into the future of developing sustainable products.”

Forum for the Future’s Sally Uren hails the Sustain Ability Challenge as a “really important initiative” because of its behaviour change potential. “This project is about working with real people and generating data that will help us to understand the triggers that change our behaviour. It’s a great example of a Brands 2.0 project, moving on from awareness-raising to mainstream action [see 'Brands and sustainability: time to step up a gear'].” – Emily Pacey

Photo: Digital Vision / thinkstock

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