Enabling consumers to make a difference

We are launching products and educational campaigns to inspire consumers to live sustainably.

Our impact

Two-thirds of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint is caused by consumers heating water to wash using our products.

Whilst we don’t have control over people’s habits, we have made good progress in encouraging consumers to adopt better laundry behaviour to reduce their own environmental impacts – habits such as correct dosing, lower-temperature washing, washing a full load and using shorter wash cycles.

We consider this challenge to be a business opportunity. If we offer products with the benefits consumers want to buy, advice which they find easy to act on, and brands with values they want to buy into, consumers will choose our brands over the alternatives.

Our approach

We are approaching this opportunity in the following ways:

  • Developing new products that change habits, such as dry shampoos or ‘quick wash’ laundry detergents.
  • Communicating better habits to consumers on pack, in store and online.
  • Working with retailers, industry bodies and other partners to inspire small actions that make a big difference.

We use our behaviour change methodology, Unilever’s Five Levers for Change, to do this.

Understanding laundry habits

A good understanding of consumer habits is an essential first step to designing improved products and behaviour change interventions. We have found that the traditional research method of asking people to complete a diary of their washing habits is not accurate enough; we discovered that using diary data alone indicated only 65% accuracy versus the actual washing temperature.

We have been experimenting with techniques using data loggers that are fitted to the washing machine.

In 2013 and 2014, we conducted studies using these loggers to measure the temperature of machine cycles. We found that consumers were moving to lower wash temperatures when they bought a machine that offered a lower temperature option.

We are expanding our use of sensors to developing and emerging markets where more consumers are buying washing machines for the first time. This is of critical importance since we have an opportunity here to influence washing habits from the very start of the consumer’s journey, rather than changing habits once they have been established.

Persil encourages consumers to use quicker wash

Most washing machines in Europe and Turkey now offer a quicker wash option. This has a lower GHG impact because less energy is generally required in a shorter or lower-temperature wash. If all 26 billion washes made by consumers in Europe each year moved from a two-hour standard cycle to a 30-minute wash, this would save 40 billion hours of machine time and reduce energy use by around 30%.

Persil Small & Mighty guarantees faster stain removal and impeccable cleaning when using the quicker wash option, and has been actively encouraging consumers to shorten their washing machine cycles since 2009. Since its launch, the number of consumers using quick cycles has increased, along with an understanding of the environmental benefits. For example, in the UK in 2014, one in four consumers claimed to use a quick wash, and six in ten claimed to apply a special machine setting (economy/energy saving or quick wash).

Promoting good laundry habits together with partners

The retail store is a great place to encourage shoppers to switch to products that are more respectful towards the environment. Our partnership with global retailer Casino Groupe, which started in 2011, aims to do just that.

We designed a programme to promote the use of laundry products with a lower GHG impact, such as liquids and concentrates, across Casino’s retail operations in France, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam and Argentina. These products are also more convenient and have great cleaning performance. We made it easy for shoppers to choose these products through the shelf layout, created appealing in-store communications about their benefits, and encouraged better laundry habits, such as washing at 30 and not over-dosing.

The results have been impressive, helping to grow the business and reduce GHG impact at the same time. During 2012-2013, Casino and Unilever’s laundry sales grew faster than the market, and we cut GHG emissions per wash faster than the market too, resulting in savings of 19,600 tonnes CO2.

In Latin America, we partnered with leading retailers such as Carrefour in 2013 and 2014 on an initiative called ‘Sumate al EcoLavado’ (Join us at Ecowash). Its aim is also to promote good laundry habits. Brands such as Surf and Skip worked together in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. They encouraged washing at lower temperatures, saving energy through shorter wash cycles, and switching to concentrated detergents. This was complemented with workshops in schools to promote good laundry habits at home. In total 106 schools were visited in 41 days, reaching 6,000 children.

Omo advice deepens consumer loyalty

Omo, our leading global laundry brand, has set up a digital platform to help educate consumers on washing machine use. The platform includes advice on which machine to buy and how to use it to its best capacity. Questions are also answered about stain removal. The digital platform is live in five markets - India, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa and Chile. Since 2013, there have been over 1.6 million visits to the web pages.

In Turkey, people tend to wash laundry, especially white laundry loads, at higher temperatures (above 60°C) and use pre-wash cycles more often. This has big impacts on GHG emissions and water use. Over 2012-2013, our Omo brand worked in partnership with local and international washing machine manufacturers. When consumers purchase a new machine, an expert visits them at home to advise on optimal washing performance and which products to use. Consumers are briefed on the best way of using their machines.

Go Green Go Lux

In 2012, we kick-started our ‘Go Green Go Lux’ campaign. This aimed to reduce GHG emissions through encouraging our consumers to purchase eco-friendly Lux refill packs and increase the brand’s positive impact on the environment.

In order to achieve this, our Lux brand, in partnership with 11 retailers, launched the ‘Lux Green Khatag’ Action. This was a 'one for one' in-store promotion where, together with our retail partners, we undertook to plant 1 m2 of grass in Tibet’s arid deserts for every bottle of Lux that consumers bought.

The campaign, which ran from 2012 to 2015, planted a total of 12,400 acres of grassland in Tibet and saved around 54,312 tonnes of GHG. The programme also resulted in a 250% increase in sales over the campaign period.*

A leading role in industry consumer behaviour change bodies

We take a leadership role in industry bodies that can influence consumer behaviour. For example, we work within AISE, the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products, the detergents industry representative body in Europe.

We have been actively involved in their sustainability campaigns, such as Cleanright. This was originally launched in 1999 as Washright to encourage consumers to wash clothes at lower temperatures and use full washes. It now provides sustainability advice for all the main cleaning products in the household.

We support AISE’s Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, which requires annual reporting on key sustainability performance indicators. It also certifies products that meet specific sustainability criteria across the industry.

Since 2013, Unilever has supported the AISE ‘I prefer 30°’ campaign in the UK, Denmark, France, Italy and Belgium. This is further strengthening the message of energy saving through washing at lower temperatures.

* Actual sales uplift during campaign period

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