Durham team win Unilever competition
A team of three Durham students have won the Unilever Sustainable Business Challenge, a competition open to all UK university students and organized by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with brands ranging from Lynx to PG Tips to Walls Ice Cream to Dove to Persil.
The Durham team, Alex Deung, a 1st year English student at Hatfield, Rebecca Ellul 2nd year PPEist at Collingwood, and Dorian Krnonenwerth 1st year PPEist at Van Mildert, impressed the judges with their proposal to help meet Unilever meet the sustainability targets published recently in its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan, one of the aims of which is to halve Unilever’s carbon footprint whilst doubling the size of the business.
The Durham team’s winning proposal focused primarily on creating a logo campaign to encourage consumers to change unsustainable everyday habits, such as the way in which we shower or wash our clothes. Alex Deung, who presented the team’s ideas at the finals, explains that they decided to take this direction after their research showed that “by far the largest environmental footprint came not from manufacturing or distribution, but from consumer usage”, so the team sought the help of marketing experts to refine their idea for a logo campaign called ‘naturallyresponsible’ that would feature on product packaging. Though inspired by the ‘Fairtrade’ logo, Deung says that the team wanted to create something more ‘active’, so that consumers were compelled to alter their behavior or usage of the product rather than simply using the logo as a label of the product’s sustainability.
Each team submitted a proposal and the company then narrowed it down to the top nine teams in the country, who were selected to attend the finals at Unilever’s Operational HQ in Leatherhead in April 2012. The eight other teams came from universities across the UK including LSE, Dublin, Nottingham and Lancaster.
At the finals, the teams were allocated graduate scheme mentors for the day, and they each then gave a 20 minute presentation, answering questions about the proposals which ranged from sustainable refrigeration technology to iPhone applications to encourage recycling, to shower-gels that didn’t need water to refill pumps in supermarkets.
At the end of the day, team Durham were pronounced winners and were awarded the enviable prize of £1500 worth of holiday vouchers and a year’s supply of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Deung says, however, that “Perhaps more exciting is the very real, genuine interest senior management have taken in the idea, which they have described as having real potential – ‘its got legs’ one director told me! We have been in contact following requests for more detailed information. Ultimately the competition wasn’t just about engaging with graduates, it was also about listening to fresh ideas to help reach a worthwhile goal. All finalists had to sign legal agreements to give intellectual property rights to the organisation. So it’s very exciting to think that Unilever may decide to use and implement our ideas”.
All three members of the Durham team met and found out about the competition through Entrepreneurs Durham, the University’s largest business society which organizes events such as lecture series, industry workshops and networking events.
The society can be reached on Facebook or through their website, www.entrepreneursdurham.com, and the team recommend that anyone with an interest in business and entrepreneurship gets involved.