In the next 10 years, consumers will be making choices on the products they buy based on “empathy” and whether the product and brand “does good” for themselves and wider society, according to executives from Vice and Unilever.
Unilever announced a partnership with Vice’s new women’s channel Broadly at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Tuesday. But the companies had already been working with each other since late last year on Vice’s sustainability website Collectively, which became a non-profit organisation in November, signing up partners including Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Google.
Vice chief creative officer Eddy Moretti said: “In 10 to 15 years, people will be making all of their choices [based] on ‘is this good.’ Is this good for my skin? Is this good for my hair? Is this good for my kids? Is this good for the planet? It will motivate the entire economy. We are moving to a place where all [purchase] decisions will be made based on empathy. Do I care? … How does it impact me? And do these [brands] care about my well-being?”
Moretti said his insight comes from working with millennials at Vice. The company just built a new headquarters, and its younger staff demanded the office was sustainable, carbon neutral, zero emissions, and had a green roof, he said.
“Every communication revolution does actually bring us closer together, and there hasn’t been one as powerful as the global digital IT revolution. We have come closer together. There are pitfalls — there is a lot of noise out there — [but we are making an] effort to slow a bit of the flow down [with long-form content and videos] in order to create empathy and connection,” Moretti added.
Keith Weed, chief marketing and sustainability officer at Unilever, said he had more quantifiable evidence of this shift towards empathy between consumers and their purchase choices, because the company is “one of the largest commissioners of market research in the world.”
He explained: “Five to 10 years ago, people used to talk about ‘my world.’ If you went to a favela in Sao Paulo and you talked about a solution, people wouldn’t talk about the river at the end of the road, they’d talk about the dust from the building next door, or the noise from the traffic outside. If the water tasted funny, they’d be sure it’s something to do with building works.”
That changed about five years ago: “You saw something come in about ‘our world.’ People were talking more about schools, communities, and were talking about the polluted river at the end of the road,” Weed said.
In the last three years or so, people have begun talking about “the world,” according to Weed.
He said: “I don’t know what it is, it could be the good old internet, and connectivity … [or,] increasingly people are seeing climate-related big weather disasters which are making people think that maybe we are doing something to our planet. We are seeing it now across countries around the world.”
Weed said that is why his company is investing in building the Unilever brand to be a “trust mark of sustainability.”
In 2010 Unilever launched its Sustainable Living Plan, by which the company set to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact. It made a series of sustainability targets to reach by 2020.
Last year, for example, Unilever achieved its goal of getting its factories down to producing zero hazardous waste. Weed said not only did the company reduce waste, but it is now also saving $US25 million a year by cutting out the costs of transporting waste.
Weed said Unilever has already hit a lot of the targets of its Sustainable Living Plan before 2020, but admitted it has missed lots of targets too. A lot of that is to do with the wider industry and suppliers, he said, giving the example of it being extremely difficult to trace the source of palm oil. But he added that if more governments, NGOs, and companies work together on sustainability, more of these targets will be hit over the coming years.
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