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Special Project

Special Project
From the 4th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Planet or Plastic?

Silver Honor in Social Movement


Each year, 9 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean. Unretrieved, it’s estimated that it’ll remain there for centuries, destroying the delicate ecosystems critical to not just our planet’s health, but our survival here on earth. The good news’s a problem we can fix and it’s exactly what National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic? initiative is addressing.

As a global brand with a rich history of scientific discovery and exploration, National Geographic is uniquely positioned to tackle the growing plastic pollution crisis in a way that only they can — through storytelling and science.

With single-use plastic consumption reaching critical levels, National Geographic launched Planet or Plastic?, a global commitment and multi-platform initiative aimed at addressing this pressing problem by raising awareness and encouraging audiences around the globe to take action.

The initiative kicked off with National Geographic’s iconic magazine issue in June 2018, which took an in-depth look at the role single-use plastic plays in our society and the environmental repercussions that come with it. A year and a half later, the initiative continues to urge audiences to take part in the Planet or Plastic? pledge, while extending the impact of the campaign into measureable opportunities for real change. National Geographic also continues to dedicate resources to scientific research and documentation to better understand the issue, take on corporate partnerships to raise further awareness, and make an internal commitment to reduce plastic use in the organization.

Strategy and Execution

Planet or Plastic? leverages the power of National Geographic’s media portfolio and the expertise of their explorers and scientists who witness firsthand the impacts of this crisis. The organization-wide effort addresses the issue through multiple avenues and audiences, including: research; consumer education and engagement; updated internal corporate sustainability commitments; and innovative partnerships with like-minded global corporations and NGOs. The multi-platform strategy includes:
PLANET OR PLASTIC? PLEDGE: National Geographic is asking their global audience to take the Planet or Plastic? pledge to reduce their personal use of single-use plastic. By taking the pledge, individuals are invited to become part of a global community working together to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans. The pledge began as a comprehensive consumer awareness and engagement campaign executed across multiple platforms, and will continue for months and years to come.                                NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION PLEDGE DRIVE: Taking advantage of a time when many people are reflecting on their everyday behaviors and resolving to make changes, National Geographic launched a social campaign that asked its audience to make their New Year's Resolution about reducing single-use plastic. Through a set of 6 shareable cards, consumers were encouraged to make their pledge and pass it on. 
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION: The National Geographic Society dedicated resources to document how plastic travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps. Starting with an initial expedition in 2019 to study the type and flow of plastic in a river system, National Geographic will provide science-based, actionable information to help local and national governments, NGOs, businesses and the public more effectively invest in and implement solutions.
WATTPAD WRITING CONTEST: For the first time ever, National Geographic partnered with the digital platform to execute a writing contest inspired by Planet or Plastic?. The campaign targeted a whole new audience demographic for the brand to help amplify the core mission of the  initiatie and motivate consumers to change their behaviors. Utilizing their position as the No. 1 social media brand, National Geographic leveraged its global reach to promote the contest and further educate audiences on the impact of single-use plastic while encouraging  them to take the pledge.
INTERNAL COMMITMENT: National Geographic took steps to reduce its own reliance on single-use plastics. Starting with the June issue, those who subscribe to the U.S., U.K. and India editions of National Geographic magazine received their issues wrapped in paper instead of plastic. This change will save more than 2.5 million single-use plastic bags every month. By the end of 2019, all global editions will be wrapped in paper instead of plastic.
CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS: National Geographic continues to seek out like-minded partner organizations that are committed to raising awareness about the enormity of the ocean plastic issue as well as to finding solutions. 



Video for Planet or Plastic?

Entrant Company / Organization Name

National Geographic Partners


Entry Credits