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Unilever, Coke, M&S, BT Launch Digital Platform to Engage Millennials on Our Power to Create Change, 'Collectively'

A coalition of the world’s biggest companies has launched a global digital platform to drive conversation and momentum around sustainability — and to help reach the ever-elusive goal of making sustainable lifestyles the new normal.

The idea for Collectively, launched today, emerged from conversations at last year’s World Economic Forum between Unilever, BT Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Marks & Spencer and Carlsberg, around how to engage more effectively with millennials to inspire and accelerate more sustainable ways of living.

The nonprofit editorial platform will celebrate and connect the people, places and cutting-edge ideas that are leading the way to a better future. Its goal is to engage and showcase the efforts of a global millennial audience that is already starting to make life choices that strengthen society and minimize their environmental impact.

Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jeff Seabright said the goal is also to make the language of sustainability — which can be off-putting and not necessarily consumer-friendly or -relevant — more accessible, in order to broaden its reach to inspire consumers that aren’t yet drinking the sustainability kool-aid.

“The idea is to create a movement — to galvanize engagement — and to do so not just for those already into the sustainability agenda, but to connect through lifestyle kinds of content to make it real for people and translate it,” Seabright said Monday in an interview. “The kinds of actions and choices and opportunities that we have to change for the better — people can relate to those things if the language is approachable and the content is there. That’s the idea here, to make this accessible and really exciting — to inspire people to take action, to support innovation, to celebrate solutions — to engage a broader cross-section.”

“Collectively brings together some of the world’s biggest brands, nonprofits and leading social entrepreneurs because we believe that together we can achieve much more, much faster,” said Collectively CEO Will Gardner, formerly Unilever’s VP of Marketing — Global Projects.

Collectively is designed to enable audiences to act more sustainably in whatever way they can — from buying, investing and campaigning to sharing an idea they believe in. The organizations behind it consider the platform a unique new approach to the way businesses engage consumers on sustainability, and hope it will grow the marketplace for sustainable products and services.

The platform has been developed alongside VICE Media’s creative services division, VIRTUE; along with Forum for the Future and Purpose, all leaders in building social movements. Researchers have long sought unique approaches that will help understand the gap between consumers’ expressed interest in social and environmental issues and their lack of behaviors to support them. Growing segments of values-driven millennial consumers such as Aspirationals and Generation World have emerged and marked a potential turning point, but Collectively hopes to reach even further.

“Our ambition is to reach a much wider, broader audience than are normally reached by sustainability websites and media channels,” Gardner said. “That’s why we partnered with VICE Media on the content side of it — they have a great talent and track record for developing content that’s hugely engaging for a younger generation of people.

"We definitely want to make sustainable living feel culturally relevant — give a kind of new ‘mood music’ around sustainable living so people will embrace it and talk about it.”

Collectively’s content will be curated and updated daily by an independent editorial team with stories, information and solutions from the worlds of fashion, food, design, architecture, technology and more. Readers will also be encouraged to submit ideas for the channel around a regularly refreshed series of themes such as future foodies and the smartest city.

Gardner says much of the content on the channel will be accompanied by calls to action — encouraging users to take their interest further; initially, these will include anything as simple as downloading an app, reading more or linking to a partner organization, or crowdfunding a particular initiative. As time goes on, Gardner says the goal will be to engage at least take some of Collectively’s audience in bigger, higher-barrier calls to action that really make a big difference — coming to events, mobilizing their local communities around the issues, etc.

The CEO said once they’ve established an engaged target audience, the next step is to turn toward the “uncommitted majority.” Once those wheels are in motion, the third measure of the platform’s success will be assessing whether people are actually taking action and where that action is creating impact.

“What we’re going to start working on quite soon, which is really exciting, is how we go about the impact measurement,” Gardner said, “whether our audience are really starting to show demonstrable changes to the way that they think about sustainable living and making changes in their behaviors — and also whether they’re starting to radiate that across their friends and colleagues and create a bigger sense of movement around it. We’ve got a bit of thinking to do in terms of how we’re going to measure that properly.”


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