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Why Ethical Employer Brands Should Be Making a Social Mobility Pledge

Why Ethical Employer Brands Should Be Making a Social Mobility Pledge

In order to attract the kind of talent your company wants (and needs) you must show commitment to the right kinds of values. Creating effective employer branding is crucial in communicating these to current and future employees. But the social mobility pledge? That takes you one step further.

What is employer branding?

We typically think of branding in terms of how our customers and clients view our company. Increasingly, companies are also having to think about similar issues in terms of how their current and prospective employees understand them; their employer branding.

Employer branding covers most of the same areas as branding for customers. These include values, trust, quality, responsibility, and more. 

It also has similar objectives. 

Customer branding aims to attract customers and build brand loyalty. Employer branding aims to attract top talent and increase engagement and loyalty

Employer branding is particularly valuable when you are competing for scarce talent and skills, but the benefits are far wider than just recruitment.

You’re attracting the talent you want

Your employer brand guides the expectations employees will have of your company and their place within it. It creates an implicit contract between the organization and staff about how they experience working for you.

This includes and clearly outlines the types of support available, the value placed on their wellbeing, and how you will respond to difficulties. 

You’re pledging that they matter

The right kind of employer branding isn’t just about attracting lots of talent. It’s also about attracting the right kind of talent. It shows potential employees who you are. Ethical and progressive branding will attract like-minded people, offering a better cultural fit and shared values.

Social mobility and employer brands

Increasingly, top talent is keen to see companies commit to increasing social mobility, with many UK businesses including measures to increase awareness of this in their employer branding.

If they want to impress emerging talent, companies need to act as well as advocate.

Gen Z is savvy to PR and branding manipulations. They expect to see real change — and we need to provide it.

Non-performative progress

If efforts to develop your company’s employer branding are to be successful, they need to offer real progress. Efforts that appear performative can do more harm than good to your brand. 

Cisco chief Chuck Robbins, for example, argues that attracting top talent depends “increasingly on how committed you are as a company to actively solving some of the biggest challenges in the world.” That’s why Cisco invested $50 million into trying to eradicate homelessness in Santa Clara County in California. 

🗯 “We spent $5 million building a deep analytics capability that we now run on a regular basis.”

Robbins also talks about how Cisco focused on pay parity.

These kinds of meaningful changes cannot be dismissed as performative and have a strong impact on employer branding.

What is the social mobility pledge and how can it help?

The social mobility pledge is another accountable, non-performative form of employer branding. 

It offers a public commitment to improving social mobility within the UK through a series of steps to inform your outreach efforts. The aim of these is to build momentum and create the kind of corporate culture and branding that you’re looking for.

A three-part commitment

Companies publicly state their determination to improve social mobility by focusing on outreach, access, and recruitment.

Businesses are encouraged to build their outreach programs, either through building relationships with educational institutions themselves or by partnering with organizations that specialize in building social mobility. 

As part of a commitment to improving access, companies pledge to offer work experience and apprenticeships to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those signing the pledge will also be expected to look at their own recruitment processes and consider ways to ensure they’re promoting a “level playing field for people from disadvantaged backgrounds or circumstances.”

By making three clear, actionable commitments, businesses can demonstrate their intention to create real improvements in social mobility.

Big name businesses signing the pledge

The social mobility pledge is growing fast, with over 600 organizations signed up already. Many of these are companies known for their commitment to social responsibility, such as the John Lewis Partnership and the Co-op group. The pledge fits neatly within this kind of progressive and responsible employer branding. 

There is no typical organization that has signed the pledge with signatories that span almost all areas of business from multinationals to local cafes. 

Major powerhouses of the finance industry, such as Deloitte, PwC, and KPMG can be found on the list of signatories. Other household names that have made this public commitment include Capgemini, Pfizer, Aston Martin, Nandos, as well as over 50 universities across the UK.


As the UK’s largest generator of renewable energy, Drax has been in an ideal position to offer outreach opportunities. 

Initiatives include:

  • Providing local schools and colleges with EV kit cars  
  • Allowing students to build and race their own electric vehicles to promote STEM learning 

Drax doesn’t only provide equipment. They have focused on building long-term relationships with students having the opportunity to work with experienced engineers. 

Drax has also been able to offer work experience and apprenticeships. Building on their work during the pandemic, they now offer virtual work experience to support more young people irrespective of geographic location or socioeconomic status.


PwC was recognized in 2019 as the best UK employer for social mobility. 

They focused on improving their recruitment processes, offering a wider range of routes into the firm, and ensuring that all stages of recruitment were accessible and inclusive. 

Their Assurance Centre in Bradford provides skills training and employment in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

Grant Thornton

Professional services firm Grant Thornton made the then-radical step of dropping academic requirements in 2013. 

Previously, academic qualifications were used to screen applicants, ensuring that those without the required grades would not be considered. Since making the change, Grant Thornton has found that their intake is more diverse, including:

  • More state school students.
  • Those who had previously received free school meals

Norman Pickavance of Grant Thornton said that their previous “rigidity was limiting our access to great talent” and that their new intake was “bringing a wide range of views and talents to the firm and better reflecting the clients we work alongside.”

Will you make the pledge?

Making the social mobility pledge offers you the chance to build your employer brand and support upcoming talent at the same time. The social mobility pledge campaign is helping to spread best practices and can work with you to produce a Social Mobility Opportunity Action Plan.

If reinforcing your employer brand, becoming more attractive to top employees, and supporting the diverse talent of the future sounds appealing, sign the social mobility pledge today.

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