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Unilever Pledges to Help Content Creators Promote Sustainability and Navigate Greenwashing Fears

A new study from Unilever uncovers barriers social media creators face around sustainability, as the multinational aims to take the lead with a new coalition and Creator Council, writes LBB’s Laura Swinton

Unilever Pledges to Help Content Creators Promote Sustainability and Navigate Greenwashing Fears
Content creators are holding back from promoting sustainability in their content for fear of being accused of greenwashing, or worse, cancelled.

Ahead of Climate Week NYC next week, the FMCG giant behind brands like Dove, Axe and Magnum, is taking the lead on an issue that they feel is keeping sustainability out of social media content - a missed opportunity for the fight against climate change.

A new study from Unilever has uncovered the extent of the problem - and at the same time they’re launching a coalition of partners (which includes climate-focused non-profits) and a new Creator Council.

“We know that sustainability content on social media has the potential to drive more sustainable behaviours, with over three quarters of consumers claiming influencers have the biggest impact on their green choices today. But it needs to be informative and meaningful content. Climate Week NYC 2023 is the perfect opportunity to collaborate with others and empower influencers to communicate on the key issues with credibility,” says Rebecca Marmot, Unilever’s chief sustainability officer.

"Unilever’s purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace," says Sukru Dincer, global head of digital - sustainable choices at Unilever. "Our aim with this initiative is to focus on the impact of social media and the content creator community in driving more sustainable behaviours among consumers. As we see through the results of this new study, 58% of content creators feel confused about sustainability and a huge 9 in 10 would welcome more support in the form of resources, training and advice. That is why we are launching this coalition of partners, including climate-focused non-profits, and a new Creator Council, to help provide support and resources."

The research found that 76% of content creators would like to mention sustainability more in their content, but a majority (84%) experience at least one barrier that holds them back from sharing sustainability or environmental content. Fears of greenwashing was the most frequently mentioned obstacle, with 38% of content creators listing it. Conversely, however, a previous study found that 78% of consumers say that influencers have the largest influence on their own green choices, meaning that there’s huge potential for creators who have confidence.

Greenwashing was not the only obstacle uncovered. Education came out as a big issue with 58% of influencers saying they feel confused about sustainability or environmental labels, and 21% saying they didn’t feel educated enough on the key sustainability issues. 21% also said they found it hard to transition from the main focus of their content to sustainability. Keeping up with current best practices was also an issue with 21% saying they were put off by the idea that thoughts on what is or isn’t sustainable can change.

The survey also revealed an appetite for support, including access to resources, direct help with navigating specific briefs and help with handling audience comments. 

Dr Adanna Steinacker, is a digital Influencer, doctor and member of the Creator Council and has direct experience of the challenges creators face. She also speaks of a responsibility to ensure she’s sharing the most accurate information that she can. “As a digital content creator, I feel a responsibility to inspire my audience with solutions that are better for our environmental and planetary health. It is crucial that brands and creators unite in this mission, dissecting science-backed information into creative storytelling that resonates with the public and influences change on a global scale,” she says. “With adequate brand support, we can enhance sustainability content on social media, inform our communities accurately, and collectively contribute to a better environment."  

Responding to these needs, Unilever has rallied a coalition of partners including sustainability experts from Count Us In, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Rare, Futerra Solutions Union, as well as an independent Creator Council, which brings together travel, beauty and lifestyle creators. Partners are currently developing a framework and guidelines to ensure the solutions are in line with the very latest climate science.  

Eric Levine, co-founder of Count Us In, says that this new platform has the potential to influence billions of people. “We have long known that climate action isn’t only for governments. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us that public action could quickly save 5% of ‘demand-side’ carbon emissions. There has never been a more critical moment in history to be part of a coalition that puts creators at the heart of advancing new solutions. Using credible, science-based guidelines and behaviour change theory, we have the potential to influence billions of people through the collective reach of the creator economy.” 

One of the reasons that Unilever has decided to take a proactive role is, says Sukru Dincer,  because while the company has been working hard to reduce their own emissions and promote positive behaviours in their own content, they also recognise that substantive change will only come with more collective action. "Firstly, it is important to say that any work Unilever does to encourage consumer behaviour change is in addition to our existing work to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. We have set science-based targets to reduce emissions in our operations by 100% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline) and to halve the emissions impact of our products on a per consumer use basis by 2030 (against a 2020 baseline), and we are committed to achieve net zero across our value chain by 2039," he says. 

 "However, if the world is to succeed in the fight against climate change, we also need to see faster action by wider society. The IPCC has released a report showing that consumer action could quite quickly reduce "demand side carbon" by 5% - and so has recommended that governments and businesses should include consumer behaviour change in its strategies and targets," sukru continues. "By working with content creators to influence sustainable living, we aim to generate small, real-world changes. We know from our previous study that social media is the most influential channel for consumers when it comes to encouraging sustainable behaviour changes – and content creators are at the heart of that."

So while Unilever has been the catalyst, the intention is that the partnership will create a truly industry-wide digital solution. By bringing together stakeholders including other brands, they hope to build on science and the latest behaviour change theory to boost the availability of accurate and effective sustainability-related content online. Indeed brands, non-profits and social media content creators have been invited to join the coalition by contacting Count Us In at   

Next week Rebecca Marmot will be joined  Şükrü Dinçer, Unilever’s global head of digital - sustainable choices to discuss the findings in greater detail as part of Climate Week NYC 2023.  

view more - The Sustainability Channel
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LBB Editorial, Thu, 14 Sep 2023 00:00:00 GMT