Guardian News and Media has signed a seven-figure deal to provide content about sustainability under the brand of household goods giant Unilever.
It is the first deal for the new Guardian Labs division – which describes itself as a “branded content and innovation agency which offers brands bold and compelling new ways to tell their stories and engage with influential Guardian audiences”.
Guardian Labs employ some 133 staff including designers, video producers, writers and strategists who will work with The Guardian’s editorial, marketing and digital development teams.
As The Guardian remains committed to remaining free online it is increasingly looking at new ways to make money.
Last year it launched a citizen journalism platform called Guardian Witness in partnership with mobile phone giant Everything Everywhere.
The Guardian’s coverage of development issues, via The Guardian Development Network, is “supported by” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
And last month The Guardian launched a new website section called Guardian Cities, with a front page story in the print edition. The site looks at the future of cities around the world and is financially supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.
The Guardian partnership with Unilever is said to be “centred on the shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling”.
According to The Guardian, editor of the new section – Bibi van der Zee – will have editorial independence from Unilever.
The Guardian said in a statement: “Guardian Labs is built around the unique philosophy of Open Ideas that reflects the Open Journalism proposition of the Guardian as a whole.
“At its heart is a collaborative and participative approach to developing brand stories that resonate amongst the highly engaged communities across all the Guardian platforms.”
The new Unilever content will sit within Guardian.com and be labelled as being commercially supported.
The Guardian said in a statement: “The new Unilever partnership will create a bespoke engagement platform to increase awareness of, and foster debate about, sustainability issues, and ultimately encourage people to live more sustainable lives.
“The platform, which will initially focus on engaging with a UK-based audience, will provide interactive and cross-media content, as well as live events, from the beginning of March 2014.
on our shared values. Right from the start we brainstormed ideas, working across the whole of the Guardian, and built the campaign together. It represents a truly original way of working.”
Unilever UK and Ireland vice president of brand-building for foods and refreshment Jon Goldstone said: “Our partnership with Guardian Labs presents us with an innovative and unique way of engaging with a greater number of consumers than ever before, in their homes and on the move, on a subject which is core to both Unilever and the Guardian’s values – sustainability.”