Defying retail engagement odds


Defying retail engagement odds

Family-owned global retailer C&A employs 33,000 workers to serve two million customers across 1,575 stores worldwide. The C&A Foundation aims to make “fashion a force for good,” in part as an active leader in the circular economy movement. C&A has a highly engaged global workforce, and kicked off its first global employee engagement campaign—Inspiring Women—a few years ago with good success.

C&A Foundation wanted to reinvigorate its engagement campaign so it successfully forged a relationship with the brand and its sustainability initiatives, across a diverse set of market cultures. Their question: How do we build a single employee engagement experience that’s more strategically aligned with our social impact goals? Our charge: Design a single campaign to activate a global workforce—spanning 27 countries and 12 languages. 

The Inspiring World Campaign, designed by Context Partners, was the 2018 winner of the UK and Europe Employee Engagement Social Responsibility Award.

What we did:


  • Workplace Immersive
  • Staff Interviews
  • Co-design Facilitation


  • Campaign Prototype Design
  • Prototype Testing and Iteration


Design with employees, not for.

Brands often create a global sustainability campaign with their vision of a better world and pull employees to it—with a demand to get on board. In our experience, this may get short-term results, but it does little to build sustained loyalty or alignment to the purpose your employees share with your brand. We did a “rapid immersion” into C&A stores, distribution centers and headquarters to gain immediate insight into the motivations of employees, so we could design from there.


Sprint, test, adapt.

We built four campaign prototypes and worked with C&A directors to rapidly test them across several markets, giving us immediate feedback to isolate what motivated staff, what flopped and to capture inputs that would help us adapt the message to a variety of cultural contexts. 


Build in the right incentives.

C&A employees like to give to charities in their community—it’s far more emotionally motivating than giving to big global causes because they can see or experience the impact. Like many philanthropies, C&A also wanted to support the big global causes. So, the campaign design met both needs—C&A vetted well-aligned global charities, and employees in each major market voted on a local charity to benefit from the campaign too.


The campaign asked employees a single question: “What’s your dream for a better world?” For each story, photo or video they submitted, employees got to vote for one global and two local charities to receive funding from the C&A Foundation. This feature empowered workers to effect positive change in their backyard while linking their action to a global purpose. Ultimately the campaign activated 65% of C&A’s global workforce across 27 countries and in 12 languages, generating over a million euros for 45 charities, and benefiting more than 250,000 people.

The Inspiring World Campaign, designed in partnership with Context Partners, was the 2018 winner of the UK and Europe Employee Engagement Social Responsibility Award.


65% participation rate across 27 countries in 12 languages.

Generated $1M euros donated to 45 charities, benefitting 250,000 people


C&A: Lessons from the Inspiring World campaign

Imagine you’re an hourly employee in retail apparel, managing myriad demands in the hectic seasonal rush, and your employer interrupts you to participate in an “employee engagement” campaign. Do you and your co-workers balk at the intrusion or embrace the opportunity to drive positive social impact?