Dove is making a significant push to reduce its environmental footprint, and the brand recently spread the word by encouraging consumers to recycle.
The Unilever-owned beauty brand launched a vending machine-style installation in New York’s Grand Central Terminal to celebrate its move to 100% recycled plastic bottle packaging across Dove, Dove Men+Care and Baby Dove products, where technically feasible in North America and Europe. The activation on Jan. 31 invited people to donate a recyclable plastic item in exchange for a free bottle of body wash in the brand’s new packaging.
Dove’s “Proud Of What We’re Made Of” installation tied into the brand’s new sustainability commitment. According to the brand, the move to 100% recycled plastic will reduce its CO2 emissions by 27,265 tons per year. That reduction will result in energy savings enough to charge 3.4 billion smartphones annually, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.
Amy Stepanian, marketing director, Dove, said the brand’s move to the recycled packaging addresses plastic waste issues it has wanted to tackle for years. The change also comes as consumer demand for eco-friendly product packaging continues to increase.
“The impact we know we can make to the totality of our environmental footprint is huge,” Stepanian said. “We’re excited to be digging into an area that is important to consumers as well.”
Dove’s initiatives are part of Unilever’s global sustainability commitment across many of its brands. The British-Dutch CPG company aims to cut its virgin plastic packaging in half by 2025, as well as collect and process more plastic packaging than the company sells by 2025.
For the day-long activation in Grand Central, the brand aimed to use as many recyclable materials as possible to build the installation, according to Stepanian. Dove worked with experiential agency New Creatures to build the structure with materials including aluminum and wood. The machine was also powered with an internal lithium ion battery that was pre-charged with solar power. The structure stood 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide, drawing passersby with a gold replica of the brand’s icon of a dove.
To receive a new bottle, consumers could insert a used plastic item into the left side of the pre-stocked machine, activating a colorful light show around the border of the bird. Afterward, the right side of the machine dispensed a full bottle. According to agency Edelman, which handled PR for the event, more than 2,000 people donated used plastic items that the brand recycled post-event.
Building sustainable activations is an ongoing priority for brands and agencies, although there are some deterrents. According to a new research study from Chicago-based agency Agency EA—which surveyed more than 600 U.S. experiential marketing industry professionals—59% of brand-side professionals said sustainability was important to all aspects of event strategy, but more than 50% reported struggling to make events sustainable because of factors including budget, logistics and vendor options.
Lush, which consistently prioritizes sustainability in campaigns, went green for its first SXSW activation in 2019. Instead of using signage to promote a wall of bath bombs, the brand encouraged attendees to download a custom app that used AI and machine learning to offer facts about each bath bomb.
Stepanian said Dove’s public display of corporate social responsibility is the brand’s first consumer experience centered around sustainability. She noted Dove’s previous experiential efforts have focused on “self-esteem, beauty and inclusivity,” themes that relate to some of the brand’s other packaging changes and campaigns from the past few years, which have received fanfare and backlash. (This year, Dove ranked No. 11 in Morning Consult’s inaugural Most Trusted Brands report.)
So far, the New York event is the only IRL activation Dove planned around the sustainability commitment. But Stepanian said the brand will continuously update consumers about eco-friendly efforts on its website. In addition to the new plastic packaging, Dove announced it will make its Beauty Bar single packs plastic-free globally later this year and is working to launch refillable, stainless steel deodorant sticks.
According to Grand Central Partnership, an estimated 750,000 people go through the station every day.