“Unileveraging” sustainable products

yoshdrp    February 16, 2015

Title of Post: “Unileveraging” sustainable products

Organisation Name: Unilever Global

Industry: Home products

Name of Contact: N/A

Web References:                                      Unilever

U-Partner Open Innovation Submission Portal

Open Innovation; Behind the Buzz Word

2015-02-15 15.55.28

Source: https://unilevernetwork.com/imgs/media/Image/About%20Unilever.jpg

As of 6:34 pm on the 15th of February 2015, worldometers estimated a global populous of 7,295,236,500 people. That is a value that continues to exponentially rise, which means that the demand for products and services will proportionally increase as well. With the limited resources available on Earth, international corporations must model sustainable green practices and products. Unilever is a global business with a global community of consumers. With up to 2 billion daily users of a Unilever product, this corporation must produce more sustainable products with a smaller footprint on the environment. With the spotlight on climate change and resource scarcity, global and digital communities boldly hold such international corporations to a higher level of accountability.


WHO is Unilever?

Responsible for numerous household products, Unilever products help consumers “look good, feel good and get more out of life”. As the brains behind brands like Lifebuoy, Dove, Lipton and hundreds more, Unilever has a diverse portfolio. Although significant debate has arisen regarding various campaigns run by Unilever brands like Dove and Axe, their products remain widely demanded in the market place. With so many products under the Unilever banner, strategies must be adopted universally across the portfolio in order to complement innovation. This in turn calls for accountable and sustainable practices. This blog post will not discuss a particular product but what in the author’s opinion Unilever’s done best to allow its brands to standout.

Listen to this short audio clip on how Unilever is innovating its products for a more sustainable future below;

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaWJJma2dpg

Clearly they have been listening!

Reflecting on HOW they do it…

A platform for #change can be an attractive medium for brain storming. Unilever did just that, they created a “U-Partner Open Innovation Submission Portal”. Both hosted and managed by yet2.com, the portal provides a platform for future influencers to share their ideas and solutions. With the focus on “challenges and wants”, strategic partnerships are considered in fighting viruses, storing renewable energy and incorporating better packaging etc. A strategy for unileveraging collaborative creativity! Such a platform encourages creators and innovators in the social media environment to collaboratively build solutions for product and service flaws etc.


Campaign for Real Beauty” was a consumer engagement campaign run by one of Unilever’s leading global branches’ Dove. It aimed to foster conversations about what beauty is. This campaign was met with quite the negative consumer engagement once the vision of other Unilever brands like Axe and Fair & Lovely was brought in to focus. Although the other brands focused on alternative conversations, it is the author’s opinion that embracing such “feel good” conversations builds your audience. It also allows other brands under the Unilever umbrella to learn from each other when appropriate.

Fostering an environment for positive change in the world is important to them. Unilever has employed strategies that allow for sustainable partnering with global entrepreneurs that aim to change the world. By providing a platform for such engagement of youth and social entrepreneurs, opportunities and ideas arise for collaboration. With such competitions that complement global positive change, it is easy to create one’s own blueprint for success. One such endeavor was the international awards programme delivered in partnership with Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CSIL). Simply creating a platform like Project Sunlight from which to advocate for change, could also gain recognition and build brighter futures.

Check out this video on Project Sunshine, just watching it is empowering.

Are you not empowered to change products with Unilever?

Could it work for YOU?

A platform for #change is a brilliant idea especially for such a global leader in home products. It is important to consider where you and your brand are at in terms of internal governance. In order to produce and sustain functional partnerships, your company’s culture must appreciate and harness the consumer as a resource. An “invented everywhere” environment should be adopted in order to foster a culture of shared learning among the two communities (employee and consumer). This will allow for shared innovation. Based on the size of your company it would be best to strategically take on such an endeavor.

Source: http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Open-Innovation.pdf

Consider engaging with consumers on crowd sourcing platforms like eYeka or Quirky; platforms created to harness the co-creativity of your consumers and transform your product with your target audience. These open environments can be intense and transparent. Consider the timeline sensitive as your competitors will have a window in to the strategies you are employing. Hence prior to embarking on this journey sufficient scenario planning is in order.

Provide opportunities to youth and future change makers to make a positive difference in the world. Contribute as part of your corporate social responsibility to find your organization future leaders while leading positive change in the communities your brand dwells in. Competitions and other incentives in the form of sponsorships and scholarships have the potential to aid in building your company’s future leadership. Your consumers will become invested in your brand, building its credibility as well as brand ambassadors in the process.

 WHAT ELSE can you do?

In an environment of where consumers live in the digital world, they hold brands heavily accountable to product and service flaws. In this environment, applications like Openlabel attempt to provide detailed information about a brand with the snapshot of a label. The mobile application aims to create a social space for radical transparency where brands will be held accountable in real time to their consumers in the digital ecosystem. With a growing database of over 25,000,000 products, the information bank is growing. This platform will thus act as a potential bank of “what consumers care about”. Engaging in such an environment allows your brand to be more transparent and engage potential flaws with your products early. When you care about your consumers, they care about your brand.

Ultimately as our markets continue to become more demanding from multiple perspectives, it is clearly important to strive for social innovation. This will ensure sustainable partnerships with your consumers while innovating your brand in the process.

Submitted by: Yoshith Perera, Public Health Professional, Social Media for Business Performance Certificate, University of Waterloo.

To contact the author please email:  yoshdrp@gmail.com

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your comments to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.