10 February 2014

The sweet smell of sustainability

Unilever has incredible scale, offering a bewildering array of products to consumers around the globe.  With that comes huge responsibility of course, something which luckily their CEO, Paul Polman, takes very seriously.  He is one of the few CEOs who are providing sustainability leadership both within his company, but also across industries.  Please take the time to read more about Unilever's 'Sustainable Living Plan'.

Compressed Deodorants

One of Unilever's recent innovations caught my eye - they've dramatically reduced the size of their aerosol deodorants.  For the same amount of product, they use half the amount of propellant, 25% less aluminium, and fewer lorries required to transport them.  There's more information on their microsite.  It's a great step and sets a new benchmark for the sector.  Even for those that won't make a purchase based on the environmental impact should find a smaller size attractive (as long as they understand it will last as long).

However successful this is, could there be even more innovation for this simple product?  Here are some ideas - what do you think?

  • Aerosol vs. stick vs. roll-on.  There are three major form factors for deodorants - the aerosol, the roll-on, and the stick.  Do consumers know which will minimise their impact on the environment, taking account of their 'lifecycle' (impacts from raw materials extraction, to production, to transportation, to disposal/recycling)?
  • Another form factor? When MUM (as in "Mum's the word") launched the first commercial deodorant in 1888, it was sold as a cream in a jar. Could a renaissance of that form factor work?
  • Reusable components.  For a long time, Body Shop have sold a roll-on deodorant which is refillable, allowing part of the applicator (the ball and outer case) to be re-used.  Why is this not mainstream?

  • Dosage Control.  My hunch is that most people use more deodorant that in actually required - a cheeky extra bonus spray, or extra smudge of roll-on?  Could the casing provide a default dosage of deodorant suitable for most people, perhaps with the ability to tweak up/down the default as the user (or their family, friends and colleagues!) got used to what's required?
  • Sweat less.  Is there room for fabric technology innovation and clothing design to help minimise sweating?  Sports clothing already does this, so can any lessons be incorporated into other clothing?
  • Sweat even less.  People sweat for lots of reasons, but there might be some common triggers, e.g. lack of fitness, coping with stress, lack of confidence in speaking, etc.  Could a manufacturer address the lifestyle and well-being of its consumers in a positive way, such that less product is required?  Could even a simple nudge to drink more cold (tap) water help?

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