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Unilever publishes its marketing behaviour change principles ‘Five Levers for Change’ to inspire sustainable living


09 Jan 2012


Sustainable Dev.
Health & Consumers

To coincide with a public debate on mainstreaming sustainable living, Unilever has published the behaviour change model its marketers use to encourage sustainable changes in consumer living habits: ‘Five Levers for Change’.

Based on Unilever’s long history of research and insights into consumer behaviour, the tool is based on a set of key principles, which, if applied consistently to behaviour change interventions, increases the likelihood of having an effective and lasting impact. Unilever is sharing the model in the hope that others will find it helpful and use it to inspire people to turn their concerns about sustainability into positive actions.

The model outlines five techniques to apply when looking to encourage new behaviours based on five key insights.  The ‘Five Levers for Change’ are:

1. Make it understood. Sometimes people don’t know about a behaviour and why they should do it. This Lever raises awareness and encourages acceptance.

2. Make it easy. People are likely to take action if it’s easy, but not if it requires extra effort.  This Lever establishes convenience and confidence.

3. Make it desirable. The new behaviour needs to fit with how people like to think of themselves, and how they like others to think of them.  This Lever is about self and society. 

4. Make it rewarding. New behaviours need to articulate the tangible benefits that people care about.  This Lever demonstrates the proof and payoff. 

5. Make it a habit.  Once consumers have changed, it is important to create a strategy to help hold the behaviour in place over time. This Lever is about reinforcing and reminding.  

“We have been working hard to distil those critical areas of behaviour change insight that we all need to use to engage consumers,” said Unilever CEO Paul Polman. “We are publishing our approach because we think that there are wider benefits from sharing our work with others.”

“A huge part of our environmental impacts come from how people use our products; two thirds of the greenhouse gas impacts across the lifecycle and about half of our water footprint is associated with consumer use. So inspiring consumers to adopt new sustainable products and behaviours is fundamental to achieving the goals set out in the Unilever Sustainability Living Plan,” added Polman.  

‘Five Levers for Change’ is published in a booklet which also contains a series of personal perspectives on sustainable living by leading experts on sustainability and behaviour change from around the world, including Forum for the Future Founder Jonathon Porritt, Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption President Helio Mattar, and behaviour change specialist Val Curtis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Note to editors

Unilever Shower Study

Unilever has committed to halve the environmental impacts of its products across their lifecycle by 2020 as part of its Sustainable Living Plan. Over two-thirds of Unilever’s greenhouse gas impacts come from consumer use of its products, such as heating water to wash, cook and clean. To coincide with the debate and publication, Unilever also published today findings from the first ever UK shower study to monitor actual shower behaviour instead of what people say they do in the shower.

This showed that the average Briton spends eight minutes in the shower, costs the average UK family £416 a year and that power showers use nearly twice as much energy and water as an ordinary bath. 

Safe Harbour

This document may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘believes’ or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group. They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance. Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements, including, among others, competitive pricing and activities, economic slowdown, industry consolidation, access to credit markets, recruitment levels, reputational risks, commodity prices, continued availability of raw materials, prioritisation of projects, consumption levels, costs, the ability to maintain and manage key customer relationships and supply chain sources, consumer demands, currency values, interest rates, the ability to integrate acquisitions and complete planned divestitures, the ability to complete planned restructuring activities, physical risks, environmental risks, the ability to manage regulatory, tax and legal matters and resolve pending matters within current estimates, legislative, fiscal and regulatory developments, political, economic and social conditions in the geographic markets where the Unilever Group operates and new or changed priorities of the Boards. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Unilever Group are described in the Unilever Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Unilever Group’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2010. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Unilever Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Unilever Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

For further media information contact:

Unilever PLC

Trevor Gorin

Global Media Relations Director 

T: +44 (0)207 822 6010

F: +44 (0)7711 020 438

Unilever PLC

Sandra Fontano

Media Relations Manager

T: +44 7785 433 131

F: +44 7825 273767

Unilever NV

Weena 455

3013AL Rotterdam

T: +31 (0) 10 217 4000

F: +31 (0) 10 217 4843