Sustainable Living Lab: The big debate

Unilever’s second Sustainable Living Lab brought together experts from businesses, governments, NGOs and academia to discuss insights, promote best practice, develop ideas and help develop solutions on how we can all reduce our environmental impact in the home.

Creating a global dialogue

On 24 April 2013, around 550 people from 80 countries joined the online discussion on what we can all do, and in particular what Unilever can do, to transform public policy and encourage behaviour change in the areas of laundry, showering and waste disposal.

Discussions were held simultaneously in two ‘virtual solution rooms’ – the People Room, focussed on product innovation, marketing and consumer behaviour and the Systems Room, concentrated on public policy, infrastructure and solutions involving wider collaborations.

Twenty-nine guest speakers gave their expert perspectives and were active participants in the conversations. Sixteen contributors from Unilever, including Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, helped drive the discussions towards solutions to specific challenges faced.

Finding tangible solutions

The Sustainable Living Lab sessions included:

  • Water scarcity in the home: The conversation examined how Unilever can increase access to water for women in developing countries and what it needs to do in terms of public policy to help consumers adapt when water is scarce.
  • Lower impact laundry: The conversation focussed on radical ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the water impacts of laundry, while also looking at how Unilever can grow its laundry business in emerging markets in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Reducing packaging waste: The conversation addressed ways in which Unilever can alter consumers’ expectations that premium products should come in premium packaging. It also delved into which incentives work best to encourage consumers to recycle.
  • Hot water for showering: The conversation explored what Unilever and its flagship brands can do to support and influence water and energy efficiency at home.
  • Mainstream sustainable living: The conversation delved into how we can make sustainable living desirable and how to create movements for change.
  • A recycling revolution: The conversation investigated ways to increase recycling among consumers and how Unilever can best contribute to improving recycling infrastructure in developing markets.

Encouraging collaboration

More than 1,750 comments were posted during the six-hour Lab, equating to one every 12 seconds. Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, says: “At Unilever we are fortunate in having the ability to touch more than 2 billion consumers’ lives each day through our brands. This gives us both the responsibility and opportunity to allow people to live well and live sustainably. Initiatives like the Sustainable Living Lab are an important way of helping us to do that.”

The ideas will be fed back into Unilever to aid its ongoing work under its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan to halve the environmental footprint of our products across the value chain by 2020.

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