Can sustainable living be mainstreamed?

23rd November 2011 by John Drummond

The Unilever debate on sustainable living

Sustainable living can be mainstreamed, according to a panel debating sustainable living chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby and hosted by Unilever today.

The panel included Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Malini Mehra, Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Markets, India, David Jones, Global CEO, Havas, and Co-Founder, One Young World and Tensie Whelan, Executive Director, Rainforest Alliance.

They explored the challenge we face because of our love of stuff. Around 16% of people are responsible for 78% of consumption, according to one commentator.

They identified over a dozen ways in which sustainable living could be mainstreamed including:

  • Make people aware of their impacts” - Paul
  • Encourage people to make conscious choices” - Tensie
  • Legislation” - David
  • Change our view of success; Tensie quoted a Belizean government minister who said: “In your countries you want to have more; in our country we want to be more.”
  • Show that encouraging sustainable living is part of a growth agenda” - Paul
  • Encourage government to create the framework for business to focus on the long term. Malini quoted a government minister who said: “We delight in passing laws but we take even more delight in by-passing laws.”
  • A fundamental reform of capitalism to focus on the long-term - Paul

Unilever have also released five levers for sustainable living or tips if you want consumers to act:

  1.  Make it understood (what you want people to do)
  2.  Make it easy (to act)
  3.  Make it desirable (to confirm your image of yourself and because others are doing it)
  4.  Make it rewarding (demonstrate the benefit)
  5.  Make it a habit (remind people at the point of relevance)

A short animation on the five levers is available here

A publication on “Inspiring Sustainable Living” is also available here

November 22, 2011 

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