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Shower sustainability study, UK

Mott MacDonald was commissioned by consumer goods giant Unilever to recruit participants and implement a study to evaluate people’s shower usage, with a view to encouraging a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to showering.

We carried out a detailed analysis of shower usage to help Unilever explore ways in which a more sustainable approach may be adopted.

Unilever is aiming to halve its environmental footprint by 2020. Part of this aim involves the reduction of water use associated with use of its products by consumers. Showering is a behaviour that heavily impacts on Unilever’s overall environmental footprint due to both the amount of water that is used and through the energy that is required to heat the water.

Challenges

The key aims of the project were to:

  • Recruit families to participate in the study
  • Install shower monitors into participants’ homes
  • Design and process a questionnaire relating to shower usage

Solutions

Following survey design, recruitment of participants, the installation of shower monitors and the processing of survey data, we carried out a detailed analysis of shower usage to help Unilever explore ways in which a more sustainable approach may be adopted.

The families’ water usage and shower habits were recorded over a two week period and each person in the household was asked to complete an individual shower diary for the study period. The baseline measures across 100 households were then returned to Unilever for cross analysis with previous behavioural shower data.

The research approach produced a wealth of data about each family, their shower use and attitudes about environmental and sustainability issues.

The outcomes of the project were focused around fully meeting the client’s needs, including the successful recruitment of participants and the installation of shower monitoring technology, facilitating the accurate monitoring of shower use and water consumption. Our expertise in designing and processing surveys enabled further information regarding showering habits to be obtained.

Unilever were able to use this data to carry out a landmark study of showering habits – increasing awareness of excessive water consumption during showering and encouraging a more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach.

Value and benefits

Unilever developed a series of interventions and social attitudinal ‘nudges’ to influence peoples’ showering behaviour, so that real increases in sustainable behaviour can be encouraged and measured.

The Unilever Research & Development team ran a large scale media campaign based on the findings of the research. We worked closely with Unilever's media partner, Blue Rubicon, to select several families from the research to take part in a national media campaign. The campaign involved families taking part in radio and press interviews.

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