The brand leader’s latest project, the Sustain Ability Challenge, aims to help UK families lead more sustainable lifestyles and save money on household bills.

Developed with insight and innovation consultancy the Futures Company, Unilever’s consumer challenge has been designed to dispel the myth that environmentally-friendly living is more expensive and can save families money at a time when disposable incomes are strained.

It also supports new research by the Fabian Society on consumer attitudes to food waste, which reveals that 53% of adults would waste less food if it could save them money and 28% would be less wasteful if they found it easier to do.

Over the next six months, Unilever’s campaign will provide 12 families with a range of tools and advice to encourage more environmentally-conscious lifestyles.

The project is designed to help the families adapt their daily routines so that they can reduce their environmental impact and cut household bills. The Futures Company will measure progress and publish the findings in 2013.

Chairman of Unilever UK & Ireland Amanda Sourry said that nearly 70% of the company’s environmental impact could be traced to consumer use of its products in the home, which meant that changing behaviour was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

She also underlined the importance of tackling food waste as a priority by telling attendees that the average family threw around £700 of food waste each year.

“Given the economic challenges that the country is facing, that’s a very significant amount of money,” she said.

Sourry explained that avoidable food waste was the project’s immediate priority and that the first area of focus would be on increasing confidence and skills in the kitchen. This support, she said, was aimed at helping the families to reduce their monthly food bills by 15% and household rubbish by 25%.

“We are going to start off in the kitchen with food and from now until the end of the year we are trying to reduce the cost of supermarket bills and also how we can reduce the amount of food that they throw away,” she said.

The project’s first stage aims to resolve the three top barriers to reducing food waste that were identified in the Fabian Society’s research – food going off too quickly, throwing away leftovers and preparing too much food.

Presenting the findings, senior research at the Fabian Society Natan Doran said the research had also identified the need for retailers to be seen to be setting an example.

“It’s important to highlight the good work that a lot of retailers are doing but what this research shows is something that previous research has shown, and that is if government and business are perceived to be doing their bit, people are more inclined to do their bit.”

The Sustain Ability Challenge launch also saw Unilever present new supplementary research, which showed that tea bags were the biggest contributor to unavoidable food waste. Sourry said that more needed to be done to raise awareness that tea bags could be recycled.

Nick Warburton

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