31 Aug 2015
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Unilever pushes sustainability message in new film

A tree may be safer in the city than in the rainforest, according to a new short film by Unilever.

The FMCG giant is so concerned about the impact deforestation is having on the planet it has created a film, 'Farewell to the Forest' to generate awareness of its sustainability goals. 

The global giant aims to half its environmental footprint by 2020 and as part of this goal, Unilever has partnered with WWF to protect one million trees in Brazil and Indonesia.

The film follows a tree who leaves the rainforest in search of s safer home. We watch as tree wanders on a journey through urban environments as it makes it way to London.  Using whimsical special effects and an emotive voice over the film lays it on pretty thickly, there is nothing subtle here, Unilever wants the world to know that it's on a mission to save trees and save the world. 

Launching ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which will be held in Paris in November and attended by more than 190 countries, the film aims to raise awareness of deforestation – the primary culprit behind global warming.

With the conference aiming to create a new agreement for climate action, Unilever has a very clear agenda, the FMCG giant which owns brands such as Dove, Magnum and Flora, wants to bring the issue to the forefront and get people talking.

It's all part of a bigger strategy for Unilever, which aims to not only show consumers they are serious about sustainability and corporate social responsibility, but also to position the corporation as a human, caring organisation. 

Unilever has launched a global initiative called Bright Future, (or Project Sunlight) which aims to make the world a better place for everyone. "Unilever brightFuture is a platform that helps unite and amplify the efforts of a growing community of people who believe it is possible to build a world where everyone lives well and lives sustainably". 

And of course, they have to. Obviously Climate Change is a massive issue with consumers all around the world, however there is a growing concern that corporations aren't doing enough to help. It is particularly important to millennials and young people who are deeply concerned about the earth they are set to inherit. They also make a lot of noise about supporting ethical and sustainable brands and corporations. 

For a global giant like Unilever its also a big show, like all major corporations Unilever has not always been the most socially responsible or sustainable and there’s obviously some green-washing going on here.

The film is a little hard to swallow, It seems a little disingenuous and too self-serving. There's something icky about a major corporation that it is one of the major driving forces behind consumerism and excessive consumption suddenly trying to be human and care about the earth. But, they have to, the corporation and its brands need humans to keep buying its products.

However, there's no denying it is an impactful and beautiful piece of film. The message is strong and powerful, the music is haunting lending the film a poignancy and power it wouldn't otherwise attract. 

Unilever's strategy is clearly about awareness, both of the issues surrounding climate change and most significantly of the company's work to be more sustainable and kind to the earth. 

Whatever the motivations behind the strategy, it's impressive. When a corporation the size of Unilever starts beating the drum loudly for climate action it sends a powerful message to consumers and other brands. 


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