Although Unilever is tackling the issue of sustainability on a global basis, the company says that targeting this area in Latin America requires a more tailored approach.
“One of the most important things in our sustainable living plan is the alignment of the same message in all countries and all brands,” said Ligia Camargo, Sustainability Manager at Unilever Brasil and a chairman of the Sustainability Committee for the Brazilian Association of Advertisers.
“Each product has its attribute of sustainability and the communication plan considers the ambition to achieve the goals of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan,” she added.
The company’s sustainability plan has been built around three key principles, which includes focuses on the sourcing of sustainable resources, focusing on the health and wellbeing of the growing global population and providing solutions that alleviate poverty and provide environmental sustainability.
Global approach with localized angle
But beyond this global approach, there is also a more localized angle to tackling problems in individual markets where cultural and demographic influences can make a big difference.
“Each location in the world has different characteristics for each innovation. For example, the OMO (washing powder brand) in Brazil is highly concentrated and therefore reduced the emission of GHG in the transportation, while in Europe the product is developed for the consumer to reduce the temperature of the washing machine and so reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Camargo.
Camargo also explained that within this context, the communication of such sustainable initiatives always changes from country to country, not only because of environmental conditions, but also due to social and cultural influences.
One particular example of how social and cultural influences can affect the approach that different companies take is the fact that, according to Camargo, the carbon footprint of cosmetic and personal care products does not resonate greatly with consumers in Brazil.
Greenwashing has made consumers question sustainability
However, that is not to say that consumers do not care about the environment, with Camargo citing a recent study by The Institute for Conscious Consumption which highlights the fact that expectations go well beyond legal and pure business interests.
“In this scenario, consumers give a high importance to aspects of social responsibility in their purchasing decisions,” said Camargo.
She also points to the fact that consumers in Brazil, just like in many other developed markets, have become jaded to the message that many companies are putting out about social responsibility, and now require more solid proof to back up such claims.
Looking ahead to the future, Camargo believes that sustainable cosmetics in Brazil are likely to revolve around four principle topics – innovation, education, public policies and partnerships.
In the second part of this interview, we will look at how Unilever is incorporating these four main principles into the production of more sustainable products without compromising on costs or efficacy.
Ligia Camargo will be giving a presentation about the challenges involved sustainable cosmetics production at the forthcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit , to be held in Sao Paulo Brazil, 18 – 20 September.