Marketing and Comms
Why Employees Are 12x More Likely to Recommend Purpose-Driven Brands

In a world where the mistreatment of employees, supply chain workers and/or the planet will quickly go public through a social post or a company review, ensure your organization’s internal beliefs and behaviors align with your external actions and communications.

Employees want to work for a brand that aligns with their values: 72 percent of people say they want to work for a company that aligns with their personal values; and they are 12 times more likely to recommend their company if it leads with purpose. Talent acquisition and retention has never been more critical, as the World Economic Forum predicts that 20 percent of the workforce will quit in 2022. But less than half of business leaders surveyed in our latest report, Purpose Up: Doubling Down in Tough Times, rated their performance on the issues that matter most to employees.

For the last several years, Barkley — in partnership with the investment firm, Jefferies — have leveraged their unique perspectives as modern consumer experts and investment analysts, to research consumer and business sentiment around brand involvement in environmental and social issues. The findings show that consumers not only want to buy from purpose-led brands; they also want to work for brands that have their purpose baked into their DNA. That requires a brand to define what matters.

Finding a purpose that’s right for a brand requires three key steps:

1. Understand the risks & opportunities.

The first step is understanding the material risks or opportunities for your business. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks such as GRI and the UN Sustainable Development Goals can help you identify sector challenges. Interviews with your suppliers, employees, customers and nonprofits can also help you identify challenges in your supply chain and community. Brand purpose is the distillation of these two inquiries that refine and help you prioritize action, while communicating effectively inside and out.

Hear 75 insights from 25 purpose-driven brand leaders ...

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“Finding your brand purpose should be rooted in both what’s material to your business and what matters to your stakeholders,” says Philippa Cross, Sustainability Lead at Barkley. “ESG can give you clarity on your key risks and opportunities; while brand purpose helps you focus.”

2 challenger brands whose brand purposes are founded on opportunity and risk

Oatly was just a beverage alternative for the lactose intolerant until CEO Toni Petersson took a stand on the climate benefits of plant-based foods, transforming Oatly from a local Swedish brand to a global behemoth in the process. But Oatly’s purpose is more than a whim of the CEO — it’s baked into a product truth that’s a material opportunity for the brand. Because plant-based alternatives have a lower footprint than dairy, this has become the clarion call of this brand and the subject of multiple lawsuits from the dairy industry — which objects to being called out on it.

Meanwhile, Tony’s Chocolonely is an impact brand that makes chocolate, founded by three Dutch journalists who discovered that the chocolate industry largely ran on child labor and modern slavery practices. Tony’s purpose has been to address these twin social risks of child labor and modern slavery head on. It’s a bold mission backed up through its strategy of creating awareness, leading by example, and inspiring both industry and consumer action.

2. Create an intentional statement.

If you want your employees to become super advocates for your brand, your purpose needs to be so simple, they could repeat it to their friends and families at a bar on the weekend.

Oatly’s mission statement is to “always deliver products that have maximum nutritional value and minimal environmental impact.” While helping people enhance their lives by contributing to the long-term future of the planet, their purpose is an easy platform to advocate for.

Tony’s Chocolonely’s statement, “to make chocolate 100% slave free,” is its North Star. Through creative packaging that calls out its competitors’ alarming practices or partnerships such as a recent product partnership with Ben & Jerry’s, Tony’s is out to prove that business as a force for good should be the norm, not the exception.

3. Activate your purpose inside and out.

If you want your employees to believe it, they need to see you do things that back it up. While Tony’s purpose is impressive on its own, it trickles through the organization’s culture and creates an anchor for the brand. By paying a higher price for its cocoa beans to ensure the farmers are earning a living income and even transparently showing where it has failed, Tony’s is holding itself and others accountable — and the employees feel the commitment.

“We believe that what we show to the outside world serves as a magnet to what we want to attract,'' says Aidaly Sosa, Head of Marketing, US at Tony’s Chocolonely. “We benefit from the brand image we have out there; and it brings to us the type of talent we have coming in.”

Oatly, on the other hand, is positioning itself as a driving force for sustainably changing our fractured food system; it wants every action it makes, inside and out, to reflect that purpose.

“The action you make is super important; and it has to saturate your company from your operations and core business to your future scouting,” says Heidi Hackemer, Executive Director of Oatly’s Climate/Culture Lab. “This is investing in where your future can go and building in line with your values while scaling the business.”

Oatly keeps a consistent finger on the pulse of its employees' and supply chain’s relationship to its sustainability initiatives; and it incentivizes leaders to prioritize sustainability by linking it to its performance expectations. This creates an environment where employees are both allowed and encouraged to live the brand's purpose.

Ensure your organization’s internal beliefs and behaviors align with your external actions and communications. We live in a world where the mistreatment of employees, supply chain workers and/or the planet will quickly go public through a social post or a company review. Transparency and consistency from all levels of the organization are crucial.


To learn more about Barkley’s findings, read the report or attend our session at SB'22 San Diego on Tuesday, October 18 to hear more from our panelists that include Aidaly Sosa, Head of Marketing at Tony’s Chocolonely and Simon Mainwaring from We First.

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