This article is part of the supplement: Behaviour change for better health: nutrition, hygiene and sustainability

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Meeting report

Behaviour change for better health: nutrition, hygiene and sustainability

Rachel S Newson1*, Rene Lion1, Robert J Crawford2, Valerie Curtis3, Ibrahim Elmadfa4, Gerda IJ Feunekes1, Cheryl Hicks5, Marti van Liere6, C Fergus Lowe7, Gert W Meijer1, BV Pradeep8, K Srinath Reddy9, Myriam Sidibe10 and Ricardo Uauy113

  • * Corresponding author: Rachel S Newson

Author Affiliations

1 Unilever Research and Development, Olivier van Noortlaan 120, 3133 AT Vlaardingen, the Netherlands

2 Unilever Research and Development, Quarry Road East, Bebington, Wirral CH63 3JW, UK

3 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

4 International Union of Nutritional Sciences, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

5 Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption & Production, Hagenauer Strasse 30, 42107 Wuppertal, Germany

6 Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Rue de Vermont 37-39, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

7 Bangor University, Gwynedd, Bangor LL57 2DG, UK

8 Unilever Consumer Marketing Insights, Mapletree Business City, International Business Park, Singapore

9 Public Health Foundation of India, ISID Campus, 4 Institutional Area, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi 110070, India

10 Unilever Global Social Mission, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY, UK

11 INTA, University of Chile, Av. El Líbano, 5524 Macul, Santiago, Chile

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13(Suppl 1):S1  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-S1-S1

Published: 21 March 2013


As the global population grows there is a clear challenge to address the needs of consumers, without depleting natural resources and whilst helping to improve nutrition and hygiene to reduce the growth of noncommunicable diseases. For fast-moving consumer goods companies, like Unilever, this challenge provides a clear opportunity to reshape its business to a model that decouples growth from a negative impact on natural resources and health. However, this change in the business model also requires a change in consumer behaviour. In acknowledgement of this challenge Unilever organised a symposium entitled ‘Behaviour Change for Better Health: Nutrition, Hygiene and Sustainability’. The intention was to discuss how consumers can be motivated to live a more healthy and sustainable lifestlye in today’s environment. This article summarises the main conclusions of the presentations given at the symposium. Three main topics were discussed. In the first session, key experts discussed how demographic changes – particularly in developing and emerging countries – imply the need for consumer behaviour change. The second session focused on the use of behaviour change theory to design, implement and evaluate interventions, and the potential role of (new or reformulated) products as agents of change. In the final session, key issues were discussed regarding the use of collaborations to increase the impact and reach, and to decrease the costs, of interventions. The symposium highlighted a number of key scientific challenges for Unilever and other parties that have set nutrition, hygiene and sustainability as key priorities. The key challenges include: adapting behaviour change approaches to cultures in developing and emerging economies; designing evidence-based behaviour change interventions, in which products can play a key role as agents of change; and scaling up behaviour change activities in cost-effective ways, which requires a new mindset involving public–private partnerships.