The fight against plastic waste: helping Dove announce its first global sustainability commitment

It’s an exciting feeling to be working with a brand at a pivotal moment in its story. We’ve been working with Unilever to help develop some of its most complex, purpose-led campaigns for years. But this sustainability brief from Dove marked a step-change in the direction of the entire brand, as it seeks to lead from the front in turning the tide on plastic waste.

The situation

Plastic waste is one of the biggest global environmental and human health challenges we face today. More than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been created to date, and most of this has become waste.1 If current disposal rates continue, 12 billion tonnes will be in landfill or the natural environment by 2050.2 This is unsustainable.

As part of the Unilever family, Dove has committed to make all its plastic packaging fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. And over the last 10 years, the brand’s 100+ initiatives to reduce its plastic use have saved more than 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste through redesign and use of recycled materials. But Dove wanted to go one step further.

As one of the world’s biggest beauty brands, housed within one of the world’s largest FMCG businesses, Dove knew it had a duty to play a leading role in tackling this. It wanted to be one of the beauty brands making the biggest global impact against plastic waste – so the team came to us to make it happen.

The challenge

We were tasked with showing the world how Dove’s newest actions and innovations against plastic waste place it firmly at the forefront of global change, and driving awareness and advocacy for them.

We aligned our campaign messaging closely to Dove’s brand philosophy of Care That Goes Further, which sits at the heart of everything they do. Care for women; making a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to all. Care for future generations; investing in the self-esteem of young people, especially girls. Care for its products; what goes into them and the impact this has on the planet.

We worked with Unilever’s BETTER | LESS | NO PLASTIC framework to identify Dove’s three most ground-breaking innovations to form the structure of our communications approach:

BETTER: Dove bottles made from 100% recycled plastic by the end of 2019
LESS: minimTM – a new, stainless steel, refillable deodorant format to be trialed as part of LOOP™ (a first-of-its-kind, minimal waste, direct-to-consumer shopping system)
NO: Plastic-free packaging for its iconic beauty bar

From this, we developed a high-impact, two-phase campaign, positioning Dove as an industry leader setting the pace of global action.

The campaign

Phase 1 involved a soft launch to drive awareness and early endorsement amongst key audiences. We held a global event in March for over 120 influencers and media from 22 countries, designed to bring Dove’s activist credentials to life in a compelling and engaging way. This was a first for Dove: a purely action-led event, designed to educate about its innovations and commitment to positive change.

We worked with a panel of experts, each with specific roles to play. Sophie Galvani, Dove’s Global Marketing VP, opened the event. Sian Sutherland, eco-activist and founder of environmental group A Plastic Planet, set Dove’s work in a global context. Firdaous El Honsali, Dove’s Global Communications Director, outlined Dove’s commitment to create a more sustainable world through its philosophy and innovations. Finally, Gavin Warner, Unilever’s Plastics lead and Director of Sustainable Business, helped attendees understand the detail and impact of each of the initiatives. Throughout the speeches, a talented sustainability-specialist illustrator, Katie Chappell, was hard at work bringing these concepts to life on one of 12th Knot’s floor to ceiling windows.

In Phase 2, we developed and managed Dove’s global media announcement. Our highly targeted, tailored risk management and media strategy to announce Dove’s flagship BETTER | LESS | NO PLASTIC initiatives went live on 21 October in key launch markets. The results were the strongest Dove had ever seen from an announcement of this kind. The breadth and depth of coverage, and positive response, showed an aspirational level of engagement with a complex and technically demanding piece of news.

We designed this campaign to educate and inspire Dove’s consumers. We wanted to educate them on Dove’s actions to tackle plastic waste, showing them first-hand the changes they could expect to see from this global beauty giant, and how this might drive global progress from other brands. And we hoped to inspire them to keep finding ways to live a little more sustainably every day, and to demand the same from the brands they use.

1 Science Daily, July 19, 2017, https://bit.ly/2tiKMcX
2 “Planet or Plastic?” National Geographic, December 2018, https://goo.gl/UzsTUE