Unilever says no to ‘normal’ with new positive beauty vision

Sydney, 9 March 2021 - Unilever today announced it will eliminate the word ‘normal’ from all of our beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising, as part of the launch of our new Positive Beauty vision and strategy.

Positive beauty logo

Positive Beauty, which sets out several progressive commitments and actions for our beauty and personal care brands, including Dove, Lifebuoy, TRESemmé, Simple and Sunsilk, will champion a new era of beauty which is equitable and inclusive, as well as sustainable for the planet. The removal of normal from our packaging and advertising falls under a broader commitment to ending discrimination in beauty and championing inclusion.

In addition to removing the word ‘normal’, Unilever will not digitally alter a person’s body shape, size, proportion or skin colour in its brand advertising, and will increase the number of advertisements portraying people from diverse groups who are under-represented. Dove has been advertising without digitally altering bodies since 2018.

The decision to remove ‘normal’ is one of many steps that we are taking to challenge narrow beauty ideals, as we work towards helping to end discrimination and advocating for a more inclusive vision of beauty. It comes as global research into people’s experiences of the beauty industry reveals that using ‘normal’ to describe hair or skin makes most people feel excluded.

The 10,000-person study, which was commissioned by Unilever, was conducted across nine countries . It found that:

  • More than half of people (56%) think that the beauty and personal care industry can make people feel excluded.
  • People want to see the beauty and personal care industry focusing more on making people feel better, than just looking better (74%).
  • More than half of people (52%) say they now pay more attention to a company’s stance on societal issues before buying products.
  • Seven in ten people agree that using the word ‘normal’ on product packaging and advertising has a negative impact. For younger people – those aged 18-35 – this rises to eight in ten.

In Australia and New Zealand, Unilever brands are already making progress on their commitment to equitable beauty. For example, the Dove’s Self-Esteem Project which helps build body confidence and self-esteem through education has reached over 1.2 million young Australians and New Zealanders since it was first launched.

Markus Redhe, General Manager of Beauty Personal Care and Homecare, Unilever Australia and New Zealand said:“We recognise that images portraying a certain kind of beauty affect all of us - men, women, children, and people of all ages and ethnicities. Australia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and it is important that the language we use on our popular products, such as Dove, Lifebuoy, TRESemmé, Simple and Sunsilk, reflects our diverse customer base, as well as our values as an inclusive brand.
“With hundreds of thousands of Australians using our beauty and personal care products every day, and even more seeing our advertising, our brands have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives. As part of this, we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”

Sunny Jain, President Beauty & Personal Care, said:“We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward. It’s just one of a number of actions we are taking as part of our Positive Beauty vision, which aims not only to do less harm, but more good for both people and the planet.”

Using Unilever’s world class innovation and technology, Positive Beauty will also help to drive a transformation in how our products are designed and formulated so that they do more good for both people and the planet, deliver a superior product experience, and tap into consumer trends. Our Australian-made bottles – Dove, TRESemmé, and Toni & Guy – are already made with 25%-70% recycled plastic and in 2020 we gave a new lease on life to over 900 tonnes of plastic – the equivalent of 200,000 yellow kerbside bins full of plastic bottles.

Driving positive change for people and planet

Central to Positive Beauty is the ambition to do more good, not just less harm, for people and the planet. Our decision to remove ‘normal’ from our packaging and advertising is just one action within the set of three commitments we have made to create real and measurable impact:

    1.Taking action through our brands to improve health and wellbeing, and advance equity and inclusion, reaching 1 billion people per year by 2030. They will focus on:

  • Helping to end discrimination in beauty and champion inclusion, by challenging narrow beauty ideals and building a more inclusive portfolio of products.
  • Driving gender equity, including stepping up brand programmes, advocacy to challenge the status quo and #unstereotyping advertising.
  • Improving health and wellbeing through existing educational initiatives in handwashing and oral hygiene and expanding focus into new areas, including physical health and mental wellbeing.

    2. Helping to protect and regenerate 1.5 million hectares of land, forests and oceans by 2030, which is more land than is required to grow the renewable ingredients in Unilever’s beauty and personal care products.

    3. Supporting a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023, working alongside lawmakers, animal protection organisations and like-minded companies. Twenty-three Unilever beauty and personal care brands are now PETA Approved, with more working towards certification.

At the heart of the delivery of these commitments will be Unilever’s beauty and personal care brands, many of which have a track record of delivering impactful programs and purpose-led growth. More of our beauty and personal care brands will join the likes of Dove, Lifebuoy, Vaseline and Sunsilk by taking action on social and environmental challenges and advocating for the evolution of norms, policies and laws.

Sarah Degnan Kambou, President of the International Center for Research on Women said: “Every day, we see and hear messages about how to ‘fit in’, how to be included in very narrow definitions of what is ‘normal’. In order to champion equity, we need to challenge these restrictive ‘norms’ and create societies and communities that celebrate diversity – and the unique qualities and ideas that each person brings. Beauty is no exception. We look forward to seeing Unilever advance these commitments and hold themselves to the high standards they have set out before them.”

Consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on the issues they care most about. Unilever’s brands perceived as more purposeful grew more than twice as fast as the rest of the portfolio in 2020. The company’s research further supports this trend, with the majority of people (69%) saying they will recommend a beauty brand to their friends and family if it caters to a wide range of skin and hair types, while half of respondents would pay more for these products.

Positive Beauty will also accelerate our science and technology programmes and innovation partnerships, driving the continued transformation of how our products are designed and formulated to become more people and planet positive. This includes developing tailored products to serve the diverse needs of people around the world, delivering real and meaningful consumer benefits, backed by cutting-edge science. Innovation will also advance the use of more natural, biodegradable, and regenerative ingredients – alongside continued packaging innovations that use less, better or no plastic.

Notes to editors

Positive Beauty follows the launch of Clean Future, the sustainable business strategy of Unilever’s Home Care Division in September 2020, and Future Foods, the sustainable business strategy of Unilever’s Foods & Refreshment Division in November 2020.

The Positive Beauty vision and actions build on Unilever’s recent global commitments to build a more equitable and inclusive society by raising living standards across its value chain and creating more opportunities for under-represented groups, and the longstanding Unstereotype initiative, which seeks to eradicate stereotypes from the advertising industry. They also complement existing actions being taken across Unilever to tackle plastic waste and support the company’s investment in a €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund, which aims to tackle a range of environmental issues, including water preservation, landscape restoration, reforestation and wildlife protection.

Research methodology

Unilever conducted a global study to investigate people’s experiences and expectations of the beauty industry, and to uncover the positive actions that can be taken to foster a more globally inclusive beauty culture. The research consisted of a 25-minute online survey and covered 10,000 respondents in total across 9 countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the UK and the USA. The sample comprised of 1,000 adults (2,000 adults in the USA) aged 18+ representative of the country’s online demographic. The fieldwork for the research was conducted between January–February 2021.

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