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How Starbucks Shows The Effects Of Social Citizenship On The Employer Brand


Starbucks announced recently that in response to protests at the treatment of two black men in one of their branches in Philadelphia, they would close all 8,000 branches in the US for half-a-day so all staff can undertake unconscious bias training. The estimated cost was $20m (£15m) in lost sales.

A drastic move? Or simply a reflection of just how important good corporate citizenship is to customers, employees, candidates and even investors these days?

Both Starbucks’ Chairman and CEO were involved in the PR surrounding the announcement to close branches and train their teams, showing that corporate citizenship isn’t just a beleaguered CSR team’s issue anymore – but a critical and strategic C-suite matter, intrinsic to the health of the brand. And not just the consumer-facing one – the employer brand too.

Research by Deloitte in 2017 found that 88% of millennials – who make up over half of our workforce now – believe that employers should play a role in alleviating concerns such as inequality, hunger, and the environment.

But are Starbucks also thinking of their recruitment and retention strategy when they make their decision to close branches and train staff?

I’d like to think so. Or at least the statistics say they should. Research by Nielsen found that 67% of employees prefer to work for a socially responsible company, and Deloitte’s aforementioned millennial research found that employees who believe that their employer supports the local community are 38% more likely to stay at that employer for five years.

So, how does this affect the employer brand? How does this emphasis on corporate citizenship alter the way we articulate why people should join, stay and enjoy success in our businesses? It certainly seems that social impact increasingly needs to be an integral part of both the business strategy and brand.

Bill Boorman, founder of #tru Conferences, blogger, speaker and advisor to Meet & Engage, recently joined us for a webinar to discuss Live Chat and Chatbots. Bill’s view was clear: that live chat and conversation are the new employer brand content. Rather than just your website and brochure, your employees create the content in tandem with the candidates – through social media and live chat. We know that peer groups are trusted more than corporate brands, so this level of authentic peer-to-peer content creation makes a lot of sense. And never more so, than when social impact and corporate citizenship are concerned.

In the same way that our technology enables clients to lift the lid on their brand, culture, career pathways, business strategy, leadership – all the elements that bring their employer brand to life – it’s also the ideal forum to share their commitment to making a positive social impact.

What is becoming clear is that employers are no longer judged only on their salaries, training and career offering, but instead on the basis of their impact on society as a whole – from diversity and inclusion to equality, the environment and beyond.

Deloitte stated in their report that authentic social citizenship “is not a matter of altruism…” but is crucial “…to attracting, retaining and engaging critical workers”. It seems social citizenship will now take its place alongside reward, benefits, career and culture as keystones of the employee value proposition. And about time.


If you’d like to find out more about the work we’re doing with our clients to bring their employer brand to life throughout the recruitment journey, contact me at

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