Unilever Finds Influencers Drive Sustainable Living

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by KnowESG,

Unilever PLC

KnowESG_Sustainable Choices
Image courtesy of https://ecowarriorprincess.net/

The power of social media influencers in positively impacting consumer behaviour is the subject of a new study that explores how brands can harness and leverage this influence to their advantage.

Unilever, in collaboration with eco-friendly influencers and behavioural experts, released a groundbreaking study on the influence of influencer content on sustainable choices.

This experiment was carried out with the help of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), the world’s first government institution dedicated to applying behavioural science. BIT created a simulated social platform to assess the impact of activist influencer content on 6,000 consumers from the UK, US, and Canada by measuring the resulting behaviour change.

The study found that influencers have the greatest influence on people's sustainable choices, with 78% of participants agreeing. This influence was greater than that of TV documentaries (48%), news articles (37%), and government campaigns (20%).

Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram were considered helpful by 83% of the participants, particularly those aged 18–34 who placed greater importance on sustainable living. Unilever's brands, Dove and Hellmann's, partnered with experts to encourage two impactful behaviours: using less plastic and wasting less food.

The study content tested was created to be either:

  • Pragmatic – characterised by an emphasis on the scale of the problem behaviour, expansive and far-away consequences, and a heavy use of data and statistics, or

  • Optimistic – characterised by practical demonstrations of how to live sustainably, emphasis on the benefits to the individual, and a surprising, often humorous tone

According to the study, both styles of content, pragmatic and optimistic, are effective in encouraging people to adopt sustainable behaviours. The results indicate that 75% of participants said that the content made them more likely to adopt sustainable behaviours such as saving and reusing plastic, buying refillable products, and freezing and reusing leftovers.

The study also showed that people value both facts and practical advice. Of those who watched 'pragmatic' content, 69% went on to try something new to reduce their plastic or food waste, while 61% of those who watched 'optimistic' content reported taking action.

The branded content was found to be as engaging, authentic, and informative as the unbranded content. Participants were supportive of social media creators making sponsored sustainable content, with 77% of them supporting creators encouraging their audience to behave in an environmentally friendly way and 72% supporting them selling products or services focused on sustainability.

The study also revealed that 76% of participants were encouraged to act after watching Dove's plastic reuse content, while 82% were encouraged after watching Hellmann's content on food waste reduction.

Conny Braams, Unilever’s Chief Digital & Commercial Officer, said: “People are finding it hard to make sustainable choices due to a lack of simple, immediate and trustworthy information. Our ambition is to continue to collaborate with our partners to improve the sustainability content produced by our brands and support the creators we work with. Together, we are learning what is all likes and no action versus content that makes sustainable choices simple and preferred.”

Professor David Halpern, Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “This study is a world-first of its kind and the largest online controlled trial to test the effect of different styles of social media content. The behaviour change potential of social media is clear and the results show that there’s huge opportunity, providing fertile ground for further exploration in this space.”

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Source: Unilever

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