Unilever launches sustainability drive

Unilever is launching a major drive to convert its Persil, Comfort and Surf customers to its concentrate variants within the next five years as part of a wider sustainability strategy.

Although it will not put an exact date on the shift, the FMCG giant’s target to move all of its consumers to concentrate brands such as Persil Small & Mighty and Comfort Concentrate is “more short-term than a five-year plan,” says UK Persil brand manager Selina Jetoo.

Jetoo was speaking to Marketing Week ahead of the launch of the manufacturer’s “Cleaner Planet Plan” which outlines its efforts to reduce the environmental impact of laundry through both the manufacture and use of its products.

It is prioritising conversion to concentrates in its laundry brand communications this year, according to Jetoo.

A website, which has consumer advice on how to make laundry habits more environmentally friendly, launches this week, while on-pack advice has already started rolling out across all Unilever laundry packaging this month.

The green laundry plan launches in the UK this week and is scheduled to roll out across four continents as the company introduces its greener products to international markets.

The strategy follows arch-rival Procter & Gamble’s move to start scrapping several of its powder and liquid formats across its Ariel, Bold, Fairy and Daz brands this summer following the launch of its low-temperature product Ariel Excel Gel (MW 7 January).

Unilever says it intends to invest 40% of its laundry research and development budget on developing further concentrated and compact ranges that perform well in cooler and quicker washing cycles.

According to the Cleaner Planet Plan, it has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing process by 44%, its waste by 70% and its water waste by 76% since 1995. However, it will now focus on working with consumers to change their habits, as 70% of its laundry products’ carbon footprint and 95% of its water impact are caused by consumers doing laundry at home.

Future Foundation founder Jonathan Porrit welcomes the move and says that manufacturers should not only be changing their own practices but must also seek to affect the habits of their customers.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Unilever’s push to convert customers to its concentrated products presents a valuable opportunity to add detail to its existing customer understanding. The site for the Cleaner Planet Plan could be harnessed to enquire and collected in-depth information on individual customers, from their communication preferences to demographic, lifestyle and behavioural data. Dynamically serving questions to users as they interact online can also ensure the most pertinent data is collected, depending on information already held offline.

    Brands like Unilever already collect large amounts of data on customers, but using this opportunity to ‘plug the gaps’ in what is known about customers can be an invaluable activity, and one which can generate revenue in itself, if data is made available externally (with the correct customer permissions in place).

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  • The Cleaner Planet Plan sounds interesting and to be applauded. I shall look forward to hearing more about its scope, and especially if it covers such as recycling and/or reuse (my personal favourite) beyond the commitment to reduction.

    Reuse especially offers great opportunity to affect the habits of consumers on top of any feel good factor with tangible rewards to pocket as well as planet. A rare 'win-win' for all in the mix, from marketer to consumer. Even some often at the sharp end, such as LGAs, who too often are lumbered with wielding threat, guilt, nanny or scare: none of which are over-motivating.

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