LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG giant, has launched a new global, corporate social media campaign – Project Sunlight – based around encouraging consumers to live in a more sustainable manner.

The campaign, co-ordinated in London, began on Universal Children's Day in Brazil, India, Indonesia, the UK and the US. Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing officer, said centralising the campaign would help the marketing team to "create a movement" on social media.

Drawing on its own research which showed that children were the key to motivating adults to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, the centrepiece of the launch featured an emotive short film about the concerns of new parents and the possibility of creating a better future for their children.

This is designed to help drive followers of Unilever's social-media feeds to a new website where brands' social-mission stories are promoted and consumers told how small changes in their own lives can make a difference.

Marc Mathieu, Unilever's senior vice president of marketing, told Marketing Week that the Unilever brand, rather than individual product brands, was being used to build brand trust and establish a mark for sustainable living.

"This is about having a broader ambition and purpose for the company," he said. "We want to establish an umbrella platform that shows all Unilever brands that have contributed to making the world better," he added.

This approach builds on Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan which in 2010 committed the company to a "ten year journey towards sustainable growth".

The company has already married social and business objectives in India, for example, with its campaigns for Lifebuoy soap and Surf washing powder.

The move is also timely in that country as corporate social responsibility is to become mandatory for Indian businesses, which will soon have to not only set aside 2% of profits for CSR activities but will also have to disclose what they have done with that money.

Initial reaction to the campaign launch was mixed. Several commentators questioned the wisdom of playing on the fears of new parents while at the same time welcoming the overall intent.

"If you can get beyond the classic advertising schmaltz the Project Sunlight microsite offers a breadth of information and sustainable lifestyle education few other companies offer," Matthew Yeomans, a director at Custom Communication, told the Guardian.

He also suggested that Project Sunlight was a major undertaking that would result in "more funds flowing into online sustainability marketing and, potentially, the mainstreaming of what so far has remained a niche consumer message".

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Business Standard, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff