Unilever CEO calls for consumers to be part of the movement for sustainable change

Unilever CEO says a commitment gap between what governments say and what they deliver on sustainability provides an opportunity for business, NGOs and society to step up to the challenge.

Sustainable Living Debate highlights

The Unilever sustainable living debate addressed the action government and consumers need to take if we are to live in a truly sustainable world. Watch the best bits from the discussion

The panel at the Guardian Sustainable Business debate

Additional media - 2 items


Speaking at a debate in London on mainstreaming sustainability, watched live by more than two thousand people in over 50 countries on The Guardian website, Paul Polman described the current challenging economic situation as a “moment to get a different type of growth” by making sustainability “a part of the business model”.

With two billion consumers worldwide using a Unilever product on any given day, Polman urged consumers to “join the movement” not “stay on the sidelines” because their “small actions can make a big difference.” Combining the efforts of businesses, governments, NGOs and consumers “to work differently together” would be the only way, he said, to help find solutions to the sustainability challenge.

The debate was prompted by recent studies showing that while most people say they are concerned about sustainability issues and want to live sustainable lifestyles[1], there is a gap between good intentions and taking action.

Unilever used the occasion to publish ‘5 Levers for Change’, a set of principles and techniques its marketers use to inspire behaviour change habits, such as more frequent hand washing and brushing teeth twice a day instead of once. “We have been working hard to distil those critical areas of behaviour change insight that we all need to use to engage consumers. We are publishing our approach because we think that there are wider benefits from sharing our work with others.” said Polman.

Also taking part in the debate were Malini Mehra, CEO of India-based NGO Centre for Social Markets, Rainforest Alliance Executive Director Tensie Whelan and David Jones, CEO of advertising agency Havas and co-founder of One Young World.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, announced in November 2010, has three big goals to be achieved by 2020: Helping over 1 billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, halving the environmental footprint involved in making and using its products, and sourcing 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably. Commenting during the debate on how a large proportion of Unilever’s water footprint comes from consumers using water to take showers, Paul Polman issued a challenge to people watching the event to come up with simple ideas to encourage people to take more efficient showers.

[1] The Futures Company 2011 Global Monitor. (Concerned in Asia: 54%; Western Europe 64%; Latin America 73%)

-ENDS-

Note to editors:

‘Unilever’s Five Levers for Change’

‘Unilever’s Five Levers for Change’ contains the behaviour change model its marketers use to encourage sustainable changes in consumer living habits.

Based on Unilever’s long history of research and insights into consumer behaviour, the tool is based on a set of key principles, which, if applied consistently to behaviour change interventions, increases the likelihood of having an effective and lasting impact. Unilever has published the model in the hope that others will find it helpful and use it to inspire people to turn their concerns about sustainability into positive actions.

The booklet also contains a series of personal perspectives on sustainable living by leading experts on sustainability and behaviour change from around the world. To download the book, please visit www.unilever.com(Link opens in a new window)

Safe Harbour

This document may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘believes’ or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group. They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance. Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements, including, among others, competitive pricing and activities, economic slowdown, industry consolidation, access to credit markets, recruitment levels, reputational risks, commodity prices, continued availability of raw materials, prioritisation of projects, consumption levels, costs, the ability to maintain and manage key customer relationships and supply chain sources, consumer demands, currency values, interest rates, the ability to integrate acquisitions and complete planned divestitures, the ability to complete planned restructuring activities, physical risks, environmental risks, the ability to manage regulatory, tax and legal matters and resolve pending matters within current estimates, legislative, fiscal and regulatory developments, political, economic and social conditions in the geographic markets where the Unilever Group operates and new or changed priorities of the Boards. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Unilever Group are described in the Unilever Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Unilever Group’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2010. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Unilever Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Unilever Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

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