How Dell & Givewith Engaged Customers in the Fight Against Ocean Pollution

Through social impact marketing, Dell is collaborating with customers to make things happen in the real world that benefit the environment and its brand.
Sep 11, 2017 9:45 AM ET

Originally published on Direct2Dell

by Paul Polizzotto, Givewith Founder and CEO

I was so excited to hear, last spring, about the upcoming release of a new packaging system for Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. Dell had come up with an ingenious plan to use plastics recovered from beaches, waterways and coastal areas—garbage that was otherwise destined to be ocean pollution—in the packaging of its laptop.

Clearly, it was a story the public needed to hear. But I knew Givewith could help Dell take it one step further, going beyond traditional “cause marketing” to increase sales, build on Dell’s strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and actually engage with consumers in the fight against ocean pollution.

The project had personal resonance for me. As a young surfer in Southern California in the late 1970s, I was sickened, literally and figuratively, by the polluted waters of the Santa Monica Bay. My determination to help clean them up led to my first social enterprise, an industrial/environmental cleaning company that washed toxins from  parking lots and industrial sites before they could enter the storm drain system. Now, some 30 years into my career as a social entrepreneur, I again had the chance to make a difference for our oceans.

We connected Dell with Waterkeeper Alliance, a global nonprofit that protects the world’s waterways, and with consumers who, like Dell, have an interest in ocean sustainability. The resulting media campaign allowed consumers who were moved by the stories of the Alliance’s important work and Dell’s innovative solution to ocean plastics pollution to help our oceans, right then and there. Each time a user engaged with the campaign, they directed a donation from Dell to support local Waterkeepers on Mexico’s Southwestern Coast and Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, two locations where plastic pollution poses a significant problem.

This is the power of Givewith. Consumers have the chance to actively engage with a cause that has personal significance to them and experience the instantaneous gratification of making an immediate impact. In addition, the sense of collaboration that’s created when user and brand make a difference together translates into real benefits for the brand.

Engagement rates and surveys with participants make it clear that consumers feel more positively about a brand, are more likely to purchase or recommend that brand, and are more likely to volunteer or donate to the associated nonprofit themselves after participating in a Givewith campaign. And that, of course, is the greatest benefit.

Together, Dell and Givewith users made it possible for Waterkeepers in Mexico to clean three beaches, removing 1,045 kilos of marine debris, including plastics, glass, tires, and metal. In Costa Rica, there will be a first-of-its-kind recycling collection and processing facility dedicated to reducing the negative effects of pollution on the region’s marine environment. New trash receptacles will be installed, weekly trash pick-ups will be instituted, public education programs and weekly beach clean-ups will be organized, and three new jobs will be created.

I cannot adequately describe the sense of satisfaction it’s given me to partner with Dell to support the critical work of the Waterkeeper Alliance. For me, it’s a vivid illustration of the important evolution that’s happening in cause marketing: away from a brand-centric monologue about a company’s good works and towards a powerful partnership between consumer and brand that has the potential to make a tangible, measurable impact on the most pressing social challenges of our time.

This article shares one example of how Dell is committed to driving human progress by putting our technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good for people and the planet.

Explore our FY17 Annual update on our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan at