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Data doing good for our communities and the planet

Unilever’s Data for Good team allows our analysts to spend time working on the projects closest to their hearts and shows how data analysis can make a difference.

In 2019, the World Economic Forum calculated that by the end of 2020, there would be 40 times more bytes of data in existence than there are stars in the observable universe.

At Unilever, we have teams of analysts working hard to process the dizzying amounts of data we receive from our consumers each day. Our aim is to understand their wants and needs better, so we can provide the best products and services possible.

But we know that data analysis presents enormous opportunities beyond consumer insights. That is why Unilever’s CMI People Data Centre (PDC) created the Data for Good team. The team allows our analysts space to spend 10% of their working week using their skills and knowledge to give something back to the wider world.

Information is powerful

Since its creation, the Data for Good team has worked on a wide range of projects and the results highlight the many ways data analysis can make a practical difference to our everyday lives.

Christi Kobierecka, the global Social Business Analytics team lead for Home Care was one of the people who helped set up the Data for Good team.

"I still remember when I had the very first conversation about doing more to support societal issues,” she says. “It was about four years ago. A group of like-minded individuals had gathered and started discussing ways of supporting social causes in the PDC.

“Because what we do is amazing – we have access to a wide variety of datasets that we use to analyse consumer behaviour. So why not use these capabilities to unlock insights that can help communities and improve the wellbeing of people both inside and outside Unilever? As a result, we put together a small group of passionate individuals to work on the idea and Data for Good was born.”

Creating inclusivity and supporting wellbeing

Internally, we have been using data to try to ensure that, as a business, we are as inclusive and ethical as possible. For example, we wanted to identify any potential barriers faced by employees with disabilities at Unilever, so the team did deep dives on social media and internal surveys as well as examining external reports and case studies.

They looked at examples of best practice around disability inclusion and used the analysis to create insights and recommendations to help us become a disability-confident company. The team also used research and analysis to support our Unmute campaign, helping to shape our domestic violence policy.

Two of our key external projects focused on supporting better mental health. We worked with Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity, to monitor social media and provide insights on their biggest campaign of the year, to help them better understand and target their key audiences in the future.

We also collaborated on an NHS trial of Talk it Out, a free app that gives people a safe space to work through their thoughts and feelings using guided exercises. Our insights showed beyond doubt that users felt significantly happier and less anxious during the trial, which helped to move the project from pilot to launch.

The people behind the numbers

Social media gives us access to the largest focus group in the world and allows us to gather valuable insights. Analysing information drawn from social media platforms and internet channels, known as social listening, has been a key part of many of the projects.

Polina Dolgacheva is a Social Business Analyst working for the People Data Centre in Russia. Polina joined the Data for Good team to work on a project following the launch of our Unmute campaign on International Women’s Day in 2021.She saw the impact that social listening can have, in terms of providing a better understanding of the people behind the data.

“I think it’s amazing that from all these different numbers and letters and words and data points we can create this very clear picture that gives us so much information,” says Polina.

“When you work with search data or social media, it’s as if you talk to people face to face. It’s not just a statistic anymore, so it touches you on a much deeper and more personal level. That made us so much more motivated to do the best we can and provide the best, most granular insights we can, just because real people’s lives could be affected by this,” she adds.

Bringing focus to the bigger picture

We have used social insights externally too, to help highlight where charities might focus their efforts, to ensure they have the greatest possible impact.

In Asia, we helped to pinpoint the barriers female farmers face in growing their smallholdings. We’ve also run upskilling workshops for refugee entrepreneurs, teaching them how to become data experts themselves, so they can use social and search analytics to build their own businesses.

And the feedback we’ve had from our partners has been overwhelmingly positive. Ross Faulkner, Partner at Talk it Out, explains that having rigorous insights provided by the Data for Good team has helped them to grow their future plans and ambitions for the wellbeing and productivity app.

“To be able to use the insights as soundbites when we’re talking to people about why they should try the app, it’s such a brilliant short cut for us to be able to say, look, this is why this app is powerful to use and here is the data to show you. Not only do the numbers speak for themselves, they are also grounded in robust data,” says Ross.

“Those little nuggets and insights are the most powerful things, but to get to them takes so much work. That is what the Data for Good team did for us. They did such a brilliant job of getting us those really well-articulated insights.”

Get involved

We’re always looking for new projects to collaborate on, big or small, so if you have something in mind that you would like to discuss with us, we’d love to hear from you.

“The beauty of our team is that we not only have a wealth of expertise from conducting market research in new ways but also a global footprint and the power of all the different minds that come with that,” says Deepa Patel, Data for Good lead.

“The team has the passion, determination and creativity to uncover valuable insights in every project and we can’t wait to put all of this together to help make a difference on even more projects in future.”