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Unilever to Use Carrotmob ‘Buycotts’ to Promote Sustainability

Unilever has partnered with Carrotmob, a nonprofit that uses consumer spending to influence businesses’ environmental impacts, to create sustainability campaigns.

Over the next two years, the global consumer goods company whose more than 400 brands include Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Q-tips will work with Carrotmob to implement the organization’s advocacy model.

Carrotmob campaigns use a “carrot” rather than a “stick” approach: consumers offer to spend money to support a business, and in return the business agrees to make a social or environmental improvement.

At Carrotmob’s first event in 2008, K&D Market, a San Francisco liquor store, agreed that if consumers showed up and spent money, it would invest 22 percent of all revenue into energy efficient upgrades. Four hundred people showed up and spent $9,277, raising enough money for K&D Market to completely retrofit its lighting system, creating an energy demand savings of about .887 kW, Carrotmob says.

Since there, there have been more than 200 campaigns in more than 20 countries.

The two groups say the partnership will encourage sustainable business practices and help Unilever’s bottom line — Carrotmobs will encourage consumer spending and increase brand loyalty based on Unilever’s pledges.

Unilever, which is listed on the 2012 Dow Jones Sustainability Index review, says the partnership is an opportunity to educate and gain new consumers by giving them a voice its sustainability efforts.

A Verdantix study published in August said Unilever is one of only four of the world’s largest food producers — Danone, Heinz and PepsiCo are the other three — that have invested in wide-ranging codes of conduct to guide their suppliers’ environmental performance.

The same month, Unilever and DHL Supply Chain partnered on a series of initiatives that the companies said will increase sustainable practices. According to Unilever and DHL, these new initiatives include developing technology to improve carbon efficiency and reduce waste within global logistics operations. The companies didn’t, however, provide details.

Unilever says its partnerships with DHL and Carrotmob bring it closer to its goal to halve its environmental impact while doubling its size. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan includes its goal to reduce by 50 percent the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste used by the company in its direct operations and to source all agricultural products sustainably by 2020.

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