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What Can You Learn from Patagonia’s Employer Branding?

By Universum, 2019-04-25

Universum recently published a post on the disparity between the relevance of CSR in consumer branding versus employer branding, and how companies can avoid CSR pitfalls in their recruitment strategies. Companies with brand values of all kinds, not just CSR, experience this difficulty due to misalignment between what is important for young job-seekers and what is communicated by their potential employers. At Universum, we provide insight led recommendationsa, helping clients navigate the challenge of incorporating their values into their recruitment strategies. This approach is unique for each client, with a focus on the aspirational employer brand and how it intersects with existing external and internal perceptions.

Continuing on the topic of CSR because it’s still Earth Month, we decided to dig into our data to see which employers in the US are champions of CSR. We retrieved this data point:

Patagonia is currently the #1 employer recognized for CSR.

This is based on Universum’s 2018 US Report, comprised of data collected from over 62,000 student respondents from all main fields of study at top universities across the US.

Patagonia seems to have bridged the gap between consumer brand and employer brand through genuine zeal for sustainability, as well as targeted talent acquisition tactics. At Patagonia they emphasize both environmental and social sustainability as brand DNA. They’ve recently been in the news for two major CSR announcements: their plan to donate all $10 million of their tax cut savings to environmental groups, and their famous corporately-branded vests, which they reportedly plan to solely provide to “mission-driven companies that prioritize the planet” moving forward.

So, how does Patagonia authentically leverage its key brand value in recruitment? Patagonia proactively nurtures its internal relationships with CSR on all levels, creating a workplace culture of sustainability that positively resonates with established employees, new employees, and prospective employees alike—attracting new talent that is not only excited about CSR, but identifies with sustainability as a lifestyle. An employer branding leader at Patagonia provided us with key insights:


3 ways Patagonia cultivates CSR workplace culture:

  1. From the get-go:

By immersing new hires in hands-on sustainability education, Patagonia starts strengthening its employees’ passion for CSR from the beginning.

“We now run ‘Enviro Days’ for all new hires and take them to Apricot Lane Farms to learn about the importance of regenerative agriculture as a practice and as a part of Patagonia’s mission.”

  1. Continuously and pragmatically:

Providing applicable guidance and tools for employees’ sustainability operations, Patagonia facilitates its employees’ ongoing objectives of improving the company’s sustainability on all fronts.

“We are providing learning opportunities, big events like Zero Waste Week, putting the onus (and tools) on each store, facility, and department to go zero waste in their own sphere. We also do similar work on a carbon footprint perspective, working with teams to embed energy reductions in their departments.”

  1. Beyond the workplace:

Patagonia inspires sustainability as a lifestyle for its employees. While they attract and hire talent that already has the sustainability seed planted in their personal values, the company encourages them to practice what they preach and live those values at home.

“We use [internal sustainability] goals to inspire change in personal lives… to give people tools to live more simply at home, reduce their waste, and reduce their carbon footprint.”

To illustrate the extent of their success in translating their brand values to their workplace culture and employees’ lifestyles, Patagonia provided us with this fun fact: “Sick or injured birds are often dropped off” for one of their R&D Managers who also runs a successful wildlife rehabilitation center. Patagonia embraces such employee passion, and says it “speaks highly to the culture and community on campus”. Furthermore, Patagonia has initiatives that encourage employee sustainability action, including their Ride Share Program, Bike to Work Week, and Composting Program.

This proves that when your company efforts are put in the right direction, authentically, you have the full ability to be recognized country-wide for what you stand for. Remember that Patagonia earned this CSR recognition among more than 200 top employers including REI, USAA, Nucor, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Geographic, Whole Foods, Google, and other big players.

At Universum, we work with clients to identify which aspects of their brand values can be translated successfully into their employer image and recruitment. By reworking clients’ employer value propositions (EVPs), we tell companies’ stories from a data-driven understanding of what their target talent wants from them, and how to best communicate it. We then guide clients through comprehensive activation strategies to generate the desired sentiment both internally and externally.

Soon to be released is Universum’s 2019 US Talent Survey Rankings and Results. It will provide cutting edge data from the most current pool of young talent and reveal their employer preferences based on 40 data points that are unique to Universum’s research.

Curious to see if Patagonia maintains its ranking as the #1 employer for CSR? Contact us to find out!

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