Unilever forges new crowdsourcing partnership to deliver ‘consumer-championed products’

Consumer goods giant Unilever has becomes one of the first global corporations to tap into the potential of crowdfunding for sustainability projects after it established a new partnership to accelerate green innovation and create 'consumer-championed products'.

The company’s ideas platform, Unilever Foundry, has formed a partnership with crowdfunding site Indiegogo to give social entrepreneurs the means to submit innovative solutions to sustainability challenges raised by Unilever brands.

“This new partnership with Indiegogo will allow us to apply our learnings from the Foundry’s Pitch-Pilot-Partner approach, which dramatically cuts the time it takes to get a new initiative to market, to the wider business while putting consumers at the heart of decision making,” Unilever’s senior vice president of global marketing Aline Santos said.

“The platform also supports our ambition to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact. By redefining business models and identifying new growth opportunities, we have the ability to change the way we do business at Unilever and reach our goal of making sustainable living commonplace.”

The Indiegogo partnership – which builds on last year’s launch of the Foundry’s ideas platform – will see collaborative concepts passed to a panel of Unilever experts. The best ideas from the platform will be launched as crowdfunding schemes through the website. The platform aims to introduce sustainable concepts across Unilever’s 400 brands.

The first idea to move from the platform into an actual crowdsourcing campaign will be the BwareIT – a smart device that displays the water consumption of showers.

Crowning the crowds

The partnership not only allows for greater consumer interaction with Unilever products in the design phase, but also decreases the risk of mass-scale product releases, which speeds up development times from years to months.

“Unilever has long been a leader in innovating around their products and consumer touch points, so we are thrilled to have them as our newest Enterprise Crowdfunding partner,” Indiegogo’s senior vice president of corporate partnerships Jerry Needel said.

“By enabling consumers and the global community of early adopters on Indiegogo to vote with their dollars, Enterprise Crowdfunding provides an exciting opportunity for companies like Unilever to build more meaningful relationships with their consumers while making smarter product and sustainability investment decisions.”

The crowdfunding campaigns build on the range of ideas submitted as part of Unilever’s global innovation crowdsourcing campaign. An iron-deficiency educational programme and a water-saving shower were among the concepts that have since been incorporated into Unilever’s operational systems.

In an edie exclusive, the managing director of crowdfunding platform Abundance Generation stated that crowdfunding is emerging as one of the best sources of investment for renewable projects looking for long-term funding, and a viable alternative to bank lending.

Matt Mace

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