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Unilever to Remove ‘Normal’ from Brands

Consumer goods company is championing new era of beauty that’s inclusive, equitable and sustainable
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer

As part of its new Positive Beauty vision and strategy, Unilever will remove the word “normal” from its global beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising. The move is one of several commitments the multinational consumer goods company is making to champion a new era of beauty that’s inclusive, equitable and sustainable for the planet. 

“With 1 billion people 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,” said Sunny Jain, president of Unilever Beauty & Personal Care. “As part of this, we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”

The decision to remove "normal" is one of many steps Unilever is taking to challenge narrow beauty ideals. It comes as new research into people’s experiences of the beauty industry reveals that using normal to describe hair or skin makes most people feel excluded.

In the new survey of 10,000 people across nine countries (United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia and China), seven in 10 said that the word normal on beauty product packaging has a negative effect on people. This figure rises to eight in 10 among people age 18 to 35.

Other survey findings included:

  • More than half of the people (56%) surveyed said that the beauty and personal care industry can make people feel excluded.
  • More than seven in 10 said that the beauty and personal care industry must broaden its definition of beauty.
  • Six in 10 said that the industry creates a singular ideal of who or what is normal,” and that made them feel they should look a certain way.
  • More than seven in 10 (74%) said that they want to see the beauty and personal care industry focusing more on making people feel better rather than just look better.

Participants also indicated that they wanted to see a more inclusive range of people reflected by beauty and personal care brands, including people of various body types, people from different age groups, people from different ethnicities and those from the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward,” said Jain. “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."

Unilever’s beauty and personal care brands are also committing to end all digital alterations that change a person’s body shape, size, proportions or skin color.

The company is creating real and measurable impact within the set of three commitments:

1. Taking action through its brands to improve health and wellbeing, and advance equity and inclusion, reaching 1 billion people per year by 2030. Unilever 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 its brand program, advocacy to challenge the status quo and un-stereotyping 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 organizations and like-minded companies. Twenty-three Unilever beauty and personal care brands are now PETA Approved, with more working towards certification.

Consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on important social issues. Earlier this year, another major consumer goods company, Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, brought its brands Dawn and Swiffer together to launch Come Clean to Close the Chore Gap, a campaign inviting everyone to do their part to create more equality in the division of household work. While more time spent at home during the pandemic has created a positive shift for some, research conducted by P&G revealed that in 65% of households, the responsibility for most chores still falls on one person — with 63% of women saying that they take on the main responsibility for chores at home.

Additionally, Unilever brands perceived as more purposeful grew more than twice as fast as the rest of the portfolio in 2020. The company’s research further supported this trend, with the majority of people (69%) saying that 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.

“With more consumers than ever rewarding brands which take action on the social and environmental issues they care about, we believe that Positive Beauty will make us a stronger and more successful business,” Jain added.

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.

London-based Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of beauty and personal care, home care, and foods and refreshment products, with sales in  more than 190 countries, and products used by 2.5 billion people every day. It generated sales of €50.7 billion (US $6.8 billion) in 2020. The company's global brands include Dove, Lifebuoy, Knorr, Magnum, OMO and Surf.

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