Families set to make a splash

This week, Unilever launches the second stage of its nationwide consumer challenge to help UK families lead more sustainable lifestyles and save money on their household bills, with a shift in focus from reducing food waste in the kitchen to using less water and energy in the bathroom.

With one fifth of a household’s carbon footprint coming from heating water for baths, showers and washing up, and heating water for use in taps, baths and showers making up around 23% of the average UK domestic heating bill, Unilever will use this phase of the Challenge to learn more about which bathroom and laundry-related tools and behaviour changes are most popular and effective among consumers1.

A week of benchmarking commences today, after which Unilever will start to introduce a series of tools, advice and inspiration to help the families achieve their goal. From now until the end of February, the 12 households taking part in the six-month Unilever Sustain Ability Challenge will aim to help Unilever find the top ways to use less water in the bathroom and when doing their laundry at home.

Unilever will also ask the families to recycle at least half of their bathroom waste during the coming weeks, to find out if families have different recycling habits in the kitchen than they adopt in the bathroom.

Their progress will be independently measured by innovation and insight consultancy The Futures Company, using a qualitative and quantitative measurement framework2. Unilever will then feed the insights back into its business and its brands, which include Radox, Domestos and Persil.

Richard Wright, Research and Development Director, Unilever, in UK & Ireland said:

“One fifth of a household’s carbon footprint comes just from heating water for baths, showers and washing up, so there’s a strong opportunity for people to use less energy and save money too if they adapt their habits and routines – even just slightly. Every one minute less time spent in a power shower will save each person per household £29 a year – a total of £116 for the typical UK family, so we want to see what’s most effective at helping people use less water while they shower3.

“With both environmental and financial benefits on offer, the second stage of the Unilever Sustain Ability Challenge presents a great opportunity for both consumers and for our business. Almost 70 per cent of Unilever’s environmental footprint results from consumer use and disposal of our products, so we’re excited to learn even more about how we help consumers make sustainable choices that are easy, rewarding and habitual, and feed these insights back into our business.”

Tim Robertson, Director, SaveWaterSaveMoney.co.uk which is among the experts that have collaborated with Unilever Trust to develop the second stage of the Challenge and tools, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Unilever in supporting the 12 families to reduce their water consumption. We hope that by providing them with our practical tips on how to save water when doing simple every day activities such as brushing teeth, washing hands and showering, along with our innovative products, such as the Hippo cistern displacer for the toilet and the shower heads that regulate water flow, we can inspire them to reduce the amount of water they waste without restricting their use.”

Launched in November 2012 and developed in partnership with insight and innovation consultancy The Futures Company, the Sustain Ability Challenge aims to bust the myth that environmentally-friendly living costs more, and prove that sustainable living can in fact help families to save money, at a time when disposable incomes are under pressure. The households’ progress is being independently measured by The Futures Company and the final results of the six month Challenge will published in 2013.

The Sustain Ability Challenge is Unilever’s latest project to support the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which sets out a series of time-bound commitments to help Unilever increase its positive social and economic impact while reducing its environmental footprint. According to research by The Futures Company, seven out of 10 (68 per cent) of UK adults say the main barrier to living a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle is that it costs more – an erroneous perception that Unilever wants to overturn.


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Notes to Editors

  1. Figures according to the Energy Saving Trust From November 2012 until early January, the Challenge focused on food waste, with the 12 households across the UK aiming to reduce their monthly food bill by 15 per cent and their household rubbish by 25 per cent. The families tested practical ways to adapt their daily routines in order to reduce their impact on the environment and cut their household bills. The findings are currently being evaluated and will be published in 2013. The next challenge builds on the 2011 Sustainable Showering Study, which was the first ever to record accurate data on how we shower and provide a benchmark for the environmental and financial impact of this. Unilever will be taking this a step further by measuring and analysing the behaviour of the Sustain Ability Challenge families when using water, looking at the bathroom (including showering) and laundry.
  2. As part of the measurement, Unilever and The Futures Company will use the shower loggers to calculate the impact of each intervention (such as the shower regulator) on the amount of water used, to give a measureable insight on which was most effective in terms of water reduction, as well as which was the families preferred tool.
  3. All figures provided relating to the financial and environmental footprint of showering are estimates which have been calculated using average consumption figures supplied by the Energy Saving Trust. For a standard flow shower they assume 1 x shower daily using a mixer shower with a flow rate of 7.7 litres per minute, with water heated by a gas boiler with a78% system efficiency. They assume gas is charged at 1.71 p/min and combined water and sewerage is charged at 1.85p p/min. The power shower figures use the same assumptions but for a water flow of 17 litres per minute. Where ‘average UK family’ is referred to it assumes two adults and two children per family, based on Office of National Statistics’ figures: and assumes one shower per day per person.

Where ‘average UK family’ is referred to it assumes two adults and two children per family, based on Office of National Statistics’(Link opens in a new window) figures: and assumes one shower per day per person.

About Unilever UK & Ireland

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with operations in over 100 countries and sales in 190. Consumers buy 170 billion Unilever packs around the world every year, and our products are used over two billion times a day. We have more than 171,000 employees, and generated annual sales of €46.5 billion in 2011.

Working to create a better future every day, we help people to feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others. 

Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including thirteen €1 billion brands, and global leadership in most categories in which we operate. The portfolio features iconic brands such as: Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Dove, Vaseline, Persil, Cif, Marmite, Flora, Wall’s, Lynx, Sure, Cif, Domestos and Pot Noodle. <3>Unilever’s ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental impact (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal). 

We are also committed to doing what we can to improve health, nutrition and hygiene, with a target to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, as well as sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020. 

All of these goals are itemised in around 60 time-based commitments in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. <3>Unilever has led the Food Producers sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 13 consecutive years. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index.

In 2011 Unilever led the Climate Counts Company Scorecard and was named #1 in the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders according to the latest survey findings from GlobeScan Inc. and SustainAbility Ltd.

About the futures company

The Futures Company is a strategic insight and innovation consultancy, formed in 2008 from the coming together of The Henley Centre, HeadlightVision and Yanklelovich. It has unrivalled expertise in foresights and futures work. It works across a range of areas, including the social, economic and environmental issues surrounding sustainability.

‘Sustainable living: a better way to live’ (available on request) is a new insights paper by The Futures Company and commissioned by Unilever UK and Ireland to inform the development of the Sustain Ability Challenge.

It brings together a combination of the Futures Company’s proprietary (and any relevant non-proprietary) social, economic and environmental research to set out the current context for UK consumers. It provides a snapshot of their attitudes and behaviour on issues relating to sustainable living, against the backdrop of the recession.

It draws on fresh UK data from The Futures Company’s Global MONITOR survey, an annual study into consumer attitudes and values across 21 markets, with a sample of 1,975 consumers in the UK. The data has been drawn from the 2012 study and comparisons with data from previous years have been made where relevant.

About Save Water, Save Money

Save Water Save Money provides a wide range of products and services to help British households to become water efficient. Some products are solutions they source from manufacturers, others they work with inventors on, and some they help develop themselves.

UK & Ireland Corporate press enquiries

For Unilever UK & Ireland corporate press enquiries, please contact the UK press office on the number or email below:

T: UK +44 (0)01372 945925
F: UK +44 07785 450287


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