The move by Unilever comes as consumers demand more transparency about the provenance and the ethical credentials of the products they buy, and the companies they buy them from.
Paul Polman, Unilever's chief executive, said: "A huge part of our environmental impacts come from how people use our products. Two-thirds of the greenhouse gas impacts across the lifecycle and about half of our water footprint is associated with consumer use.
"Inspiring consumers to adopt new sustainable products and behaviours is fundamental to achieving the goals set out in the 'Unilever Sustainability Living Plan'."
The five "levers" are a set of principles based on Unilever's previous research and insights into consumer behaviour, which the company hopes will "increase the likelihood of having an effective and lasting impact" through a series of "interventions" in consumer behaviour.
Unilever's 'Five Levers for Change' are:
- Make it understood – Sometimes people don't know about a behaviour and why they should do it. This Lever raises awareness and encourages acceptance.
- Make it easy – People are likely to take action if it's easy, but not if it requires extra effort. This Lever establishes convenience and confidence.
- Make it desirable –The new behaviour needs to fit with how people like to think of themselves, and how they like others to think of them. This Lever is about self and society.
- Make it rewarding – New behaviours need to articulate the tangible benefits that people care about. This Lever demonstrates the proof and payoff.
- Make it a habit – Once consumers have changed, it is important to create a strategy to help hold the behaviour in place over time. This Lever is about reinforcing and reminding.
Polman said the company was publishing its approach to changing consumer living habits because it believed "there are wider benefits from sharing our work with others".
In an interview with the Forum for the Future charity this week, Polman said Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan was being incorporated into the "core" of the business.
Follow Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith on Twitter @LoullaMae_ES