There’s a proverb that reminds us that ‘great oaks from little acorns grow’, and that something that may begin with modest expectations can grow into something very impressive indeed.
It’s an apt description of how a team from Chile took on an ambitious project that has ended with the creation and launch of the country’s most sustainable detergent ever. And the news gets better – sustainability has in turn driven growth.
Zero waste to landfill was just the beginning
In 2012, achieving zero waste to landfill was made a target for all factories as part of Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). In 2015, the team in Chile achieved it at their factories, well ahead of schedule.
It started with us looking to achieve zero waste to landfill at all of our factories but that became the start of the journey and not the end.Chile Country Manager, Hans Eben
Rather than stop there, the team decided more could be done. Why not ensure factories were powered with 100% renewable energy? Why not look at the packaging of their market-leading detergents and make them 100% recyclable? Why not create products that were 100% phosphate free?
“We decided the project would be an example of holistic value creation,” says Home Care Chile’s Marketing Director, Chantal Goldschmidt. “We’d create value for consumers through a much better product; and create value for our planet through a formula without phosphates, 100% recyclable packaging and using renewable energy in our factories.”
If that wasn’t challenge enough, the team decided to launch the project across all three detergent brands – Omo, Drive and Rinso – in all sizes, all at the same time.
The success of the project, which launched countrywide in October 2017, was down to focus and teamwork from Supply Chain, Customer Development and Marketing.
Here are the four key learnings in landing ‘Project Candy’ from the leaders that made it happen.
1. Clear communication, robust training and team input
The project involved a complete transformation of our primary and secondary pack lines while at the same time avoiding any impact to the business.Supply Planning Manager Sebastian González
For González, success was down to robust communication between all team members and a large training programme to get all of the production crews up and running with the new technology.
“We looked at it as an opportunity to make teams part of the whole process and make them proud of the place they work in,” he says.
2. Involving clients in the new launch and managing logistics
“We knew a huge challenge for us was also a huge challenge for our clients,” says Ignacia Yañez, Customer Marketing Manager, Laundry. “Clients had to change their entire Unilever portfolio which represents 60% of their sales in detergent. We couldn’t risk losing one point of on-shelf availability.”
The team sat down with clients big and small, modern and traditional to put Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan into practice.
“We planned ahead to build a perfect launch; ensure no disruptions in sales and avoid any out-of-stock during the link up. We also trained all our merchants, logistics and sales staff to prepare them for the change to come.”
3. Consumer messaging highlighting a purpose beyond cleaning
“Our main task was to communicate the attributes that made our products the most sustainable detergents in Chile and to invite consumers to choose brands with a purpose beyond cleaning and that were eco responsible at the same time,” says Laundry Brand Manager Francisca Tagle.
The team also worked with UN Global Compact in Chile – which is chaired by Hans Eben – to reinforce the products’ strong link with Global Goal 12 – responsible production and consumption. This saw the launch of the project on 1 October 2017, National Environmental Day.
The PR response to the campaign in traditional and social media was strong. A launch video achieved 3.5 million unique views on YouTube and the full campaign reached more than 5 million people.
In December, Chile’s Ministry of the Environment also recognised the continuous improvement Unilever has made in the complete life cycle of our detergents, from ensuring 100% local production to our latest improvement – changing our packaging from non-recyclable carton to 100% PE recyclable bags.
We can now use a logo on pack that shows the Ministry recognises the work we’ve done.
4. Keeping teamwork and value creation on everybody’s to-do list
The project succeeded, says Chantal, because “every function took the project as its own, and thought of the whole value creation and biggest impact in the market, at all times”.
Hans Eben is understandably excited about the team’s achievement. “I’m very proud that we have contributed to creating the best sustainable detergent for Chilean consumers,” he says.
“That’s the beauty of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. You see how these building blocks fit together and you end up with something much bigger and better than you thought.”