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Supporting self-esteem and wellbeing

Average read time: 12 minutes

Through our purpose-led brand campaigns and programmes, we’re helping to boost self-esteem and wellbeing.

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What impacts wellbeing?

There are a number of factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including the social, economic, cultural and physical environment in which people live their lives.

While many of these factors are beyond our control, we use our brands – and our voice – to do everything we can to make a difference. We’re helping women and girls to boost their self-esteem and supporting wellbeing by bringing people together. Championing inclusion via our brands explains how we’re tackling issues such as racial equity and women’s empowerment.

The importance of self-esteem

Dove Self-Esteem Project research in the UK in 2020 showed that 41% of parents of 7- to 14-year-old girls think their daughter’s confidence levels have dropped since pandemic lockdowns began. And girls are more anxious about their bodies than ever, with almost one-third feeling less confident about their bodies since lockdown.

When people lose confidence in their body image, we know that many lose confidence in themselves, and this can affect their self-esteem, wellbeing and even mental health.

Our Dove Beauty & Confidence report (PDF 1.23MB), for example, shows that eight in ten girls opt out of important life activities, such as trying out for a team or joining a club at school, if they don’t feel good about the way they look.

Seven in ten girls stop themselves from eating when they are worried about their appearance, or otherwise put their health at risk by not seeing a doctor. For adult women, it’s an incredible nine in ten.

Through Dove, our leading Beauty & Personal Care brand, we’re taking urgently needed action to improve self-esteem, as well as wellbeing.

We’ve helped over 69 million young people build self-esteem

Since 2005, our Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) has grown to become the world’s biggest provider of self-esteem education.

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250 million Young people we’ve committed to empower with the Dove Self-Esteem Project by 2030

More than 2.4 million parents and mentors have used our content, and over 570,000 teachers have delivered a Dove self-esteem workshop.

And we’re not slowing down.

In 2020, we announced a new commitment: to empower 250 million young people by 2030 through DSEP education programmes. It means more countries, more creative ways to engage audiences and many more young people feeling confident in their own skin. We also formed the Dove Youth Board to gain insights from around the world and help guide our strategy.

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We’re not just building self-esteem. We’re building our business too. Our research shows a direct link between awareness of the Dove Self-Esteem Project and brand equity.

Celebrating real, inclusive beauty

Real beauty comes in many different colours, shapes and sizes. Dove believes that beauty should be a positive experience for every woman.

The Dove Real Beauty Pledge

A Dove ad campaign including 7 women of different shapes and sizes

We believe that beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. Dove inspires women to want to look like the best version of themselves – because looking and feeling your best makes you feel happier. We’ve made three pledges in support of this.

Pledge 1: We portray women as they are in real life

We never digitally distort images of women. We never show unachievable, manipulated, flawless images of ‘perfect’ beauty. Instead, we represent women as they are in real life.

Pledge 2: We portray women with diversity, honesty and respect

We believe that beauty is for everyone. That’s why our campaigns never silently feature models or actresses. We feature women who represent a broad view of beauty – showing different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair colours, styles and body types.

Pledge 3: We help girls build body confidence and self-esteem

Dove’s on a mission to ensure the next generation grow up feeling confident about the way they look to help them reach their full potential. Since 2005, we’ve worked in 142 countries to improve self-esteem in more than 69 million young people with our educational tools.

We’re also taking concrete action towards beauty inclusiveness. Through the Crown Act, for example, we’re campaigning to end hair discrimination and to create a more equitable and inclusive beauty experience for Black women and girls. Through the efforts of the CROWN Coalition, federal law has changed to ban hair discrimination in schools and workplaces in the US; now we’re bringing our campaign to the UK too.

Shattering stereotypes through Project #ShowUs

Dove is building the world’s largest stock photo library of its kind, with 20,000 images of real women, curated by women. We’re doing this in partnership with the largest international stock photo distributor, Getty Images, and Girlgaze – a collective of female-identifying and non-binary photographers.

It’s just one of the things we’re doing to transform our advertising.

‘No’ to digital photo alterations and ‘yes’ to real life

Project #ShowUs follows Dove’s ‘No Digital Distortion’ mark, which we introduced in 2018.

This lets women and girls know that the image they’re looking at has not being digitally altered to fit the ideals of what beauty is and isn’t.

We’re now working in partnership with academic institutions and experts in the US to call for the introduction of industry regulations and tax incentives. We want to target the way beauty is portrayed in advertising, weight discrimination, and the unethical sale of diet pills to children.

Reaching young people with self-esteem messages

Our Dove Self-Esteem Project reaches young people by offering free confidence-building workshops for classrooms and educational activities for parents, mentors and youth leaders.

We work with world-renowned body image experts and leading universities to develop evidence-based tools. The positive impact of these efforts have been proven by academic studies.

Helping children shine with Steven Universe

A group shot of children posing with characters from the animated TV series 'Steven Universe'

What we watch has a big impact on how we feel, especially when we’re young.

That’s why Dove has teamed up with the Cartoon Network. Our two-year partnership is helping young people with their body confidence through something they love – cartoons!

Steven Universe has become a global pop culture phenomenon. The show’s diverse characters fight evil by getting strength from their body type. This perfectly matches the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s commitment to building body confidence and self-esteem in young people.

We’ve created content, such as a series of short episodes on issues that matter to children, like teasing and bullying, appreciating our bodies, and navigating social media. All content was co-created with body image expert Dr Phillippa Diedrichs from the Centre for Appearance Research.

So far, our efforts have reached more than 23 million young people. And our research shows that the cartoons have a positive impact on their body confidence.

Growing up in today’s social media world

We’ve been working with US media company ATTN to create a five-episode scripted US series from Emmy-award winning writer, producer and actor Lena Waithe.

Girls Room tackles the pain and power of female adolescence through the eyes of five girls as they face the challenges of growing up in today’s social media world. The series is based around those moments spent in bathrooms – the girls’ room.

From selfies to self-confidence

Dove’s new Reverse Selfie film and campaign aim to stop the damage social media pressure and retouching apps are having on girls’ self-esteem. With 34% of teenagers spending an average of three hours a day scrolling on their feeds, talking about healthy social media habits now feels as critical for their wellbeing as discussing sex or puberty.

Research-driven and academically validated, Dove’s new Confidence Kit offers a wide range of materials, including practical suggestions that girls can put in place, such as curating their feed to ensure what they see is appropriate and empowering. It also includes conversation starters that can help parents and girls evaluate the reality of what they see on social media.

6 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

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6 million Young people reached with Free Being Me and Action on Body Confidence programmes

Since 2013, we’ve also been working with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to get our message across to more young women.

Our Free Being Me and Action on Body Confidence programmes have reached over 6 million young people in more than 125 countries, and we’re aiming to reach over 7 million by the end of 2021.

In 2020, we hosted a virtual advocacy event called Journey to Self-Esteem. This gave girls the opportunity to speak out about body image issues that they feel passionate about, alongside our influencer partners.

We also formed our Dove Youth Board – bringing together young leaders from Women Deliver, WAGGGS and PLAN – to capture the voice of young people in our strategy, programme development and advocacy.

Two young girls in Girl Guide uniforms at a Free Being Me workshop

Educating 10 million more young people with UNICEF

Dove is partnering with UNICEF to help 10 million more young people boost their self-esteem. In 2020, we worked hard to develop new education modules to launch in 2021.

Our partnership brings together the scale and specialised skills of UNICEF with the expertise and experience of the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

The new modules have been tested by academics. They will be taught as part of UNICEF’s wider adolescent life skills programmes for 10- to 18-year-olds in Brazil, India and Indonesia, in secondary schools and after-school programmes.

Introducing #SelfEsteemAtHome

Covid-19 didn’t stop the Dove Self-Esteem Project. It took us just three weeks to introduce virtual body confidence classes, hosted by the world’s favourite influencers, for people to watch together while staying at home.

The classes covered three key themes from our school workshops, which are written by body image experts and proven to have a positive impact on children’s wellbeing.

Episode 1: Wellbeing at Home

Episode 2: Using Social Media Wisely

Episode 3: Building Body Confidence.

We launched the campaign in ten countries across the world. Families loved it, with the classes resulting in over 2 million downloads of our Confidence Kit in 2020.

How our brands are supporting wellbeing

One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. Dove, as well as a number of our other brands, have recognised how they can play a role in supporting people’s wellbeing – whether that’s through reducing loneliness over a cup of tea, or simply more exercise that boosts wellbeing.

We’ve stepped up our efforts during the pandemic. As well as donating products, we're coming up with new campaigns that are designed to help people through lockdown and beyond.

Supporting wellbeing while schools are closed

The Dove Self-Esteem Project is continuing to support the wellbeing of young people while schools are closed. Using platforms like Instagram Live, we’re sharing advice on body confidence and staying safe on social media.

Courage is beautiful

Dove's advertising has changed during lockdown. We’re recognising the heroic daily acts of healthcare workers, with Dove’s Courage is Beautiful film. This features the mask-marked faces of health professionals.

Dove Men+Care

For many parents, managing childcare responsibilities alongside work has been a challenge during lockdowns.

Dove Men+Care has been sharing how its international rugby player ambassadors care for their families while keeping to training commitments. Our #DadsCare films emphasise their unique ways of showing support.

A Clear focus on resilience

Resilience is the ability to cope with challenges and the fear of judgement. We know that one in two young people experience social anxiety, and 75% of people believe resilience is important to overcome this anxiety, but don’t have the tools to develop it. But it’s definitely a skill that can be learned and as people become more resilient, they feel better prepared to deal with life, both mentally and emotionally.

Our Clear haircare brand launched its Clear 14-day Resilience Challenge in 2020 to help people develop this skill. The Challenge’s online platform was designed with Dr Michael Ungar, co-director of the Resilience Research Center at Dalhousie University in Canada. It’s an evidence-based programme to help people feel more confident physically, creatively and mentally.

Every daily activity is supported by an exercise and a short film, featuring experts and special guests, and they can be used by individuals or educators. They cover topics such as focusing on our strengths, reflecting and building networks, being mindful, expressing gratitude and establishing routines that will make it easier to resist anxiety and other mental health problems.

Reducing loneliness

Social connections are vital to our wellbeing. Our tea brands are promoting different ways to boost these connections through the simple act of sharing a cup of tea together.

Connecting over a cup of tea

Around World Mental Health Day in October, Lipton ran a challenge to drive quality connections – to get people to make the most of their daily 15-minute tea break and make time for their teammates, friends or loved ones. And we turned each letter of the word CONNECT into a simple, actionable tip that could be used as a prompt to get conversations started.

Two men share a conversation and a cup of tea at a desk

PG tips, the UK’s favourite tea brand, is also on a mission to combat loneliness. We’re encouraging people to connect over a cup of tea – whether in person, or by phone, video or streaming. We’ve also partnered with mental health charities The Samaritans, Time to Change, and The Big Lunch, to raise awareness and break the stigma of loneliness.

In India, Brooke Bond Red Label’s Taste of Togetherness campaign aims to address the difficulties that Covid-19 survivors can face as they return to their homes and communities.

The bigger picture

Young woman wearing headphones and studying phone, relaxes on a grassy field

Self-esteem and wellbeing are just one part of the bigger picture we’re addressing across our business – the concept of a fairer and more socially inclusive world that leaves no one behind. Championing inclusion via our brands explains how we’re running programmes from boosting career confidence for women to promoting racial equity for under-represented groups. We’re also building greater equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplace and advertising.