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Encouraging behaviour change

Inspiring people to adopt new behaviours is central to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. With our products touching the lives of 2.5 billion people every day, even small changes to individual behaviour can make a big difference.

Why is behaviour change important to us?

Creating a sustainable future will require fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviours across society not just from governments and industry but individual citizens too.

As one of the world’s leading consumer goods companies, we are constantly researching the attitudes and needs of people around the world. Our expertise in marketing and sustainability means that we can make a real contribution to inspiring and enabling consumers to adopt more sustainable habits and products.

Behaviour change is fundamental to achieving the goals set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Over two-thirds of our greenhouse gas impacts and 85% of our water footprint is associated with consumer use. To tackle impacts across the lifecycle of our products we have to understand and influence consumer behaviours.

Unilever's Five Levers for Change

Our Five Levers for Change is a practical tool that has been developed from our most effective behaviour change campaigns. It is a set of principles which, if applied consistently, will increase the likelihood of campaigns having a lasting impact. It is published on our website to help others create successful campaigns.

When developing a behaviour change campaign we first look at:

  • Barriers – what are the things that stop people from adopting a new behaviour?
  • Triggers – how could we get people to start a new behaviour?
  • Motivators – what are the ways to help them stick with the new behaviour?

Next, we apply the Unilever Five Levers for Change:

  • Make it understood. Do people know about the behaviour? Do they believe it’s relevant to them? This lever raises awareness and encourages acceptance.
  • Make it easy. Do people know what to do and feel confident doing it? Can they see it fitting into their lives? This lever establishes convenience and confidence.
  • Make it desirable. Will doing this new behaviour fit with their actual or aspirational self-image? Does it fit with how they relate to others or want to? This lever is about ‘self and society’ because humans are social animals.
  • Make it rewarding. Do people know when they’re doing the behaviour ‘right’? Do they get some sort of reward for doing it? This lever demonstrates the proof and payoff.
  • Make it a habit. Once people have made a change, what can we do to help them keep doing it? This lever is about reinforcing and reminding.

What have we learnt?

We have learnt that marketing and market research can be powerful forces for behaviour change. Many of our brands have run successful health and hygiene behaviour change campaigns from reducing disease through regular hand washing with soap to improving oral health through regular teeth brushing. We are also starting to apply our approach to environmental challenges, such as the Comfort One Rinse campaign to encourage people to use less water when rinsing clothes.

We are working with authorities in the field to ensure that we are connected to the latest behavioural change thinking and practice and we share what we learn to help others.


Learning to listen - Naturals and Organics

We listen to consumers desires for what they want from us and, with an increased desire for naturalness and authenticity, we respond.

We have a range of vegan and vegetarian products and actively endorse plant-based lifestyles via positive, proactive consumer communication campaigns. By the end of 2017, around 500 Unilever food products in Europe were endorsed by the European Vegetarian Union and our global brands Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s now offer vegan and vegetarian variants. The category is also encouraging more consumers and chefs to cook plant-based meals via our Knorr and Unilever Food Solutions recipe hubs.

Between 2016 and 2017, we acquired Seventh Generation, Schmidt’s Naturals, Mãe Terra, and Sir Kensington’s, supporting our expansion to naturals and organics. Additionally, we launched natural extensions of Dove, Sunsilk and Dirt is Good.

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