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Study reveals influencers can switch people on to sustainable living

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A female influencer shooting a video with a ring light and iPhone
Eight in 10 people think TikTok and Instagram are good places to get advice about how to live sustainably | Photo: Antoni Shkraba

Unilever, alongside a cohort of eco-conscious influencers and behavioural scientists, have announced the results of a first of its kind examination of the role of influencer content in impacting sustainable choices. The experiment was created in partnership with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), the world’s first government institution dedicated to applying behaviour science. To put activist influencer social media content to the test, BIT built a simulated social platform that showed people various styles of content, and measured the resulting behaviour change of 6,000 UK, US, and Canadian consumers.

The results showed that influencers have the single biggest impact on people’s green choices today. True for 78% of people, it is far ahead of TV documentaries (48%), news articles (37%) and even government campaigns (just 20%). In fact, 83% agree that TikTok and Instagram are helpful places to seek out advice on how to be greener at home, validating the importance of social media as a valuable tool in helping to make sustainable living commonplace. This was even higher (86%) for younger participants (18-34), highlighting the greater importance that future generations are placing on living sustainably.

Dove and Hellmann’s – two of Unilever’s largest brands – commissioned the content, alongside experts from across the business, which aimed to encourage the two most impactful behaviours on an individual’s carbon footprint: using less plastic, and wasting less food.

75% of people said that content made them more likely to adopt sustainable behaviours, including saving and reusing plastic, buying refillable products, and freezing and reusing leftovers. When measuring actual behaviour change, the study shows that people value both facts and practical advice. Of those who watched ‘pragmatic’ content, 69% went on to try something new to reduce their plastic or food waste as a result, with 61% of those who watch ‘optimistic’ content reporting action.

Branded content was viewed as just as engaging, authentic and informative as the unbranded content, with participants supportive of social media creators making sponsored sustainable content. Eight in 10 (77%) support creators encouraging their audience to behave in an environmentally friendly way and seven in ten (72%) support them selling products or services focused on sustainability. Seven in ten (76%) were encouraged to act after watching Dove plastics reuse content and 8 in 10 (82%) after watching Hellmann’s content on food waste reduction.

“People are finding it hard to make sustainable choices due to a lack of simple, immediate and trustworthy information. Our ambition is to continue to collaborate with our partners to improve the sustainability content produced by our brands and support the creators we work with. Together, we are learning what is all likes and no action versus content that makes sustainable choices simple and preferred.”, says Conny Braams, Unilever’s Chief Digital & Commercial Officer.

“This study is a world-first of its kind and the largest online controlled trial to test the effect of different styles of social media content. The behaviour change potential of social media is clear and the results show that there’s huge opportunity, providing fertile ground for further exploration in this space.”, agrees professor David Halpern, Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team.

The study worked with 10 diverse creators from the UK, the USA, and Canada, including @maxlamanna@going.zero.waste, and @andyseastcoastkitchen.

For this pilot, Dove and Hellmann’s commissioned 30 pieces of content aimed at nudging people to waste less food and less plastic – two of the consumer behaviours with the greatest potential to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint.

6,000 participants in the UK, US, and Canada, were shown the content and asked a series of questions to understand whether it had affected their intentions to change their behaviour, with over 2,500 reporting back on whether it had affected their actual behaviours.

EuroNewsweek is a dynamic news platform featuring lifestyle, sustainability, successful stories, tech, leadership, creative marketing, business, and the unstoppable people behind them.

Sustainability

Barcelona launches awards for sustainable digitalisation projects

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The initiative was announced today during the presentation of the new 2023-2027 Strategic Plan at Barcelona City Hall.

Mobile World Capital Barcelona has announced the launch of international awards to recognise the best innovative projects in sustainable digital transformation. The Foundation will reward the public or private proposals that are best aligned with compliance with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria.

With these awards, MWCapital aims to take a step towards highlighting the role of technology as a driver of change to generate a positive impact on society and the economy and, therefore, on the planet. This is also reflected in the development of the maxim that will govern MWCapital’s activity, which goes from Technology Matters to Humanising Technology.

This launch took place today at the presentation of MWCapital’s new Strategic Plan, which was attended by the Mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni, the Minister of Enterprise and Employment of the Government of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, and the new Minister of Digital Transformation of the Government of Spain, José Luis Escrivá, who has recently joined the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.  Also participating were the Director General of GSMA, Mats Granryd, the CEO and Director of GSMA Ltd., John Hoffman, the President of Fira de Barcelona, Pau Relat, and the CEO of Mobile World Capital Barcelona, Francesc Fajula.

Since its inception, Mobile World Capital Barcelona has been a pioneer in showing how technology can improve people’s quality of life and contribute to the overall well-being of society. The Foundation will focus on Tech4Good, promoting technological projects and scalable digital services that have a mission to generate a positive impact on society and the economy; Digital  talent, promoting the generation and attraction of digital talent so as to position Barcelona as the benchmark in this field, and technology transfer, occupying a unique space in Europe in the ecosystem of initiatives to support the creation of scientific spin-offs.

During the presentation, Francesc Fajula, CEO of Mobile World Capital Barcelona, and John Hoffman, CEO and Director of GSMA Ltd., announced the first strategic alliance to confirm the city of Barcelona as a benchmark in the field of sustainable digital solutions.

Technologies such as Big Data, artificial intelligence and advanced robotics will be explored to develop scalable projects and to face the challenges linked to technological progress in society.

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10 European cities awarded by EU for plans to reach climate-neutrality by 2030

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Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, in Sweden, is one of the cities awarded the Label of the EU Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities | Photo: Mike Kienle

10 European cities have been awarded the Label of the EU Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, one of the EU Missions in Horizon Europe. The EU Mission Label is an important milestone as it recognises the cities’ plans to achieve climate-neutrality already by 2030 and aims to facilitate access to public and private funding towards that objective.

The cities that have received the label are: Sønderborg (Denmark), Mannheim (Germany), Madrid, Valencia, Valladolid, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Zaragoza (Spain),Klagenfurt (Austria), Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and Stockholm (Sweden).

The EU Mission Label is an acknowledgement of the successful development of Climate City Contracts, which outline the cities’ overall vision for climate neutrality, and contain an action plan as well as an investment strategy. Cities co-create their Climate City Contracts with local stakeholders, including the private sector and citizens. A first group of cities presented their Contracts in April 2023, which were reviewed by the Commission with the support of experts, including from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). Following a positive review, cities receive an EU Mission Label, which is intended to facilitate access to EU, national, and regional funding and financing sources, in particular private investment.

In total, 100 EU cities participate in the EU Cities Mission, with 12 additional cities from countries associated to Horizon Europe. 

The Commission, through the Mission Platform, will continue to support cities with hands-on advice and funding programmes, such as a €32 million pilot programme combined with a twinning programme. Another call for pilot cities with a budget of €20 million is currently open until 6 November. 

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How does solar energy work and why to use it?

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Solar panels in a house
More than 1.3 million UK homes have solar panel installations, according to the latest MCS data

 The impact of the climate crisis has never been more evident, with flooding, rising sea levels and high temperatures now becoming common occurrences on national news.

But renewables are a relatively unfamiliar technology, which means that we first need to raise awareness about how they work in order for people to feel comfortable using them. In this post, we explore solar energy – how it works, how you can use it at home, and why you should make the effort to switch to green energy.

How does solar energy work?

Solar energy is probably the most well-known form of renewable energy, but it’s massively underutilised. In fact, some research suggests that in just an hour and a half, the amount of sunlight that hits the earth could actually power the world for a year.

To harness the power of the sun, we need to use solar panels, which capture the sunlight (solar radiation) and then turn it into power that we can use in our homes. A conductor material in the panels, such as silicon, releases electrons when exposed to light, which in turn produces an electric charge. This then creates a direct current, which is passed through an inverter to create an alternating current – the type of electricity we use in our homes.

The difference between solar PV panels and solar thermal panels

When most people refer to solar panels, they tend to mean solar photovoltaic panels (PV panels) which we’ve outlined above, but there are actually two types. Solar thermal panels are made up of tubes or panels filled with water and glycol. They harness solar energy, converting it to heat.

The fluid is then pumped around the solar thermal circuit, which goes through the hot water cylinder used for the house. So, they do not offer solar electricity, but rather solar powered hot water, which can be used for washing as well as heating a property.

How can we get solar energy at home?

Solar PV panels can either be placed on a residential property, for direct use by the homeowner, or they can be part of a solar farm. If you have solar panels on your home, you’ll use solar power first, before topping up your electricity supply from the national grid. UK homeowners can also take advantage of the Smart Export Tariff, allowing you to sell back any excess electricity you generate but that you don’t use to the grid.

Alternatively, if you’re renting, don’t want to or can’t have solar panels at home, you can choose a renewable energy supplier to provide you with your electricity. Whilst there’s no way of ensuring that only green energy flows into your home, these renewable suppliers will put more green energy units into the grid mix, increasing the overall percentage of eco-friendly electricity – so you’re essentially voting for clean energy with your money.

What are the benefits of solar energy?

Cut your carbon emissions

The most significant reason to choose solar energy is that doing so can slash your carbon footprint, reducing your impact on the environment. Your installer will be able to advise on the best solar setup for your home, based on the orientation of the property, size of the roof and how much energy you’re likely to need. Whilst solar panels won’t be able to provide all of the necessary energy for your property all the time, there’s something satisfying about running your devices on energy that isn’t harmful to the planet.

Reduce your bills

Generating your own solar energy can help you cut your energy bills at home, both because you can use the energy directly and through the Smart Export Tariff. You’re simply making the most of the geographical orientation of your property, utilising a previously untapped resource to generate power for your home. In a time where energy bills are notoriously high, this is a welcome idea for many homeowners. Whilst there is the initial cost of the panels to consider, in the long run, you’re likely to end up saving money.

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