When Doing Good is Job Number One

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Developing your employer value proposition, or EVP, is tough. You need to find a way to connect your organization’s core business goals with something that job seekers can relate to. The old marketing and communications maxim of “What’s in it for me?” applies here. It’s not just what your business does but why a candidate should care that matters here.

For Canva, an Australian graphic design platform company with a worldwide reach, however, the problem is simple. Their mission is a simple two-step plan:

  1. Become one of the most valuable companies in the world.
  2. Do the most good we can.

We caught up with Charlotte Anderson, the Talent Brand Lead at Canva, to talk about how doing good is woven into their company mission and how they’ve transitioned to a mostly distributed workforce that still gathers from time to time.

How Canva “Does Good”

Every organization is trying to change the world, but committing yourself to “doing good” might sound like a tall order. For Canva, however, they back up talk with action. One thing they started with was taking the 1% pledge.

Participating businesses with an interest in social impact pledge 1% of their equity, profits, employee time, and product to be a force for good in the world. Other participating companies included the likes of Salesforce, Fundera, Atlassian, and Yelp. At Canva, it looks like this:

  • Giving away their premium product for free to over 130,000 nonprofit organizations.
  • Allocating 3 full days from each employee at Canva as volunteering hours each year.
  • Providing financial support for global crisis relief efforts.
  • Launching their Print One, Plant One program which has committed to planting nearly 3.4 million trees across the globe (and counting).

As Anderson says, “Being a force for good is woven into the fabric of our culture.”

A Commitment From Leadership

While the 1% pledge, and especially spending time volunteering, does a lot to make the concept of doing good tangible in the employee experience, Canva takes it a step further with the commitment from leadership to connect it directly to the company’s bottom line. Their founders, Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht, have donated the vast majority of their equity—30% of Canva (valued at $40 billion USD)—to US-based not-for-profit GiveDirectly through the Canva Foundation.

The goal is to eliminate extreme poverty across the globe, and while the initiative is still in its early planning and research stages, the donation is more than three times larger than any other private foundation in Australia. According to the Financial Review, “Ms. Perkins said the decision to give some of their personal shares to the company foundation, rather than create a personal foundation, was because they hoped this approach would reduce inequity and boost Canva’s own success by making it an attractive place for people to work.”

Canva has also announced plans to become climate positive by 2023, after having hit the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020. This includes a transition to 100% renewable energy, an initiative to make offices more energy-efficient, a more effective approach to waste management, and a commitment to sustainable and ethical procurement practices across the organization. Being climate positive means going beyond net-zero carbon emissions to remove additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through a range of initiatives, including Print One, Plant One program, and even rooftop gardens at their office locations.

Creating a Great Employee Experience

“For us, it’s not just about hiring the right people, it’s also about ensuring that they have a great time,” Anderson says, and that means having a high standard when it comes to the employee experience.

Canva has a dedicated “Vibe Team” that is there to ensure that their offices are a great place to work. That means excellent facilities, with beer taps, murals, a rock climbing wall, and restaurant-quality meals in-house for group lunchtimes. However, Anderson notes, they are also mindful of how employees’ expectations have changed as distributed workforces have become more common.

Employees at Canva are expected to check-in at their nearest hub twice a quarter to maintain that ever-important personal, face-to-face connection. To help, the Vibe Team puts together exciting in-person experiences that employees don’t want to miss out on. Especially important are their “Season Openers,” quarterly kickoffs with great speakers, a celebration of what happened in the previous season, and goal-setting for the season to come.

At the end of the day, Canva creates a great EVP by committing itself to issues larger than the organization and showing employees that what they do everyday matters. With a rapidly expanding, global team and a quickly-growing business, the results speak for themselves.

To follow Charlotte Anderson’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For help identifying the values and culture you want to create in your company, get in touch.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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