Unilever, the international conglomerate producing over 400 products, hasn’t always had a sterling environmental and social record. In 2007, Greenpeace targeted the corporation for the deforestation of Indonesian rainforests linked to its sources of palm oil. The UN Environmental Programme called palm oil plantations the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia. Then, in 2011, Unilver partnered with Proctor and Gamble in a European washing powder price-fixing scheme. About the best thing you could say about Unilever was “at least they’re not Nestlé.”
But in recent years Unilever has been doing a lot to change public perception and at least appear to work toward sustainability. They were a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and in 2012 announced that its sustainable palm oil target would be reached three years ahead of schedule, as well as promising “100% palm oil from certified traceable sources by 2020.” But a report issued last week by the International Labor Rights Forum and Sawit Watch found ”flagrant disregard for human rights at some of the very plantations the RSPO certifies as ‘sustainable.’” These human rights violations included “labor trafficking, child labor, unprotected work with hazardous chemicals, and long-term abuse of temporary contracts.”
So here we are a week later, on Universal Children’s Day, and Unilver has a new campaign called “Project Sunlight,” which it describes in a press release as appealing to everyone, but particularly parents, “encouraging them to join what Unilever sees as a growing community of people who want to make the world a better place for children and future generations” and “a new initiative to motivate millions of people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.”
At the center of Ogilvy London’s campaign is the video, directed by Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris, and scored with the worst Pixies cover you’ve ever heard, ”Why Bring A Child Into This World?.” which answers that question by stating that our grandchildren will live in a better place than we do. It’s a slick, well-produced 4:26 clip charged with sentimentality and promise, especially if you’re a new or expectant parent.