Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why Companies Need to Work with Millennials for Social and Environmental Change (Videos)

Millennials may be the saving grace of a world that appears to be slow responding to the social and environmental challenges we face. August 12 was International Youth Day and to commemorate the occasion here is a post that looks at the role of business in helping young people and millennials in particular, to be advocates of change.

Young people have the greatest stake in the future of our planet and they are showing that they are interested in engaging in the difficult work of transforming our world for the better.

The United Nations General Assembly endorsed International Youth Day in December 1999. The theme of International Youth Day in 2016 is, "The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production." As explained on the UN:

"This year’s Day is about achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production. Sustainable consumption entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities while safeguarding the needs of future generations. The development and promotion of individual choices and actions that increase the eco-efficiency of consumption of all and minimize waste and pollution is critical to achieving equitable socioeconomic development."

Here is a message from Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the occasion of International Youth Day 2016


Here is The United Nations Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi, comments on International Youth Day 2016.


On Friday, Aug 12th, Triple Pundit, SAP, and Natalie Warne posted came together for a Twitter Chat with at #TheWorldYouWantToLiveIn to discuss how millennials are challenging the system and modern society as we know it.

The Twitter Chat addressed the The significance of International Youth Day and how SAP recognizes the power of the millennial generation as the epicenter of the consumerization of technology. They also addressed how millennials are expected to continue to drive innovation and economic growth as they dominate the workforce in coming years. With millennials expected to constitute half of the global workforce by 2020, companies need to appreciate their sensibilities. The essence of the message was that corporate leaders can close the skills gap and strengthen society by engaging millennials.


As explained in the post, Millennials are widely known for their "tendency to choose meaning over traditional pursuits such as career or money." They also the most educated young people in history. This means they bring more knowledge to the table than any generation that proceeded them.

Their familiarity with digital technologies and their propensity towards philanthropy put them in the perfect position to take on the challenges of a world desperately in need of change. There are also an important message for the business community. Attracting millennials gives companies a competitive advantages and supports their bottom line.

The problems we face are diverse, but in its simplest form we need to transform the way we consume and millennials may be key to achieving this end. Companies have a role in helping consumers think about sustainability. This is in large part a marketing challenge. We have gleaned a lot of information about how we can help change behavior and this knowledge needs to be put to work to influence consumer buying habits.

The buying behaviors of younger consumers are motivated by social and environmental values. This is not only a challenge it is a great opportunity for companies who are able to make a values driven appeal to millennials for the purpose of driving systemic change. To succeed in auguring widespread changes we need to make sustainability sexy. However, marketers must communicate the values of sustainability without the verbiage, that includes the word "sustainability". We need a narrative that is free from specialized vernacular and focused on stories that are relevant to human beings. This includes messaging that is fun and trendy.

The data supports this trend towards conscious consumerism. One recent study showed that a third of all millennials search for brands that are associated with positive global impacts. These results were corroborated in a survey that revealed 41 percent of people 18-24 expect to increase the amount of goods and services they purchase from socially responsible companies. This survey shows the older you are the less likely you are to care about such things. Together these studies show that our youth really are the harbingers of change.

Brands that have the courage to stand up and speak to social justice issues will get attention from millennials. This means that the value proposition is about more than the intrinsic benefits of the product, without being overly complicated, it must tie into a social or ecological purpose. To put it another way this is about encouraging people to buy into an effort to change the world.

Research from Cone Communications reveals that millennials support corporate social responsibility (CSR). This study shows that millennials are the most engaged age demographic when it comes to buying products associated with a cause or using their online networks to amplify social and environmental messages. This cohort wants to participate in CSR initiatives and they are willing to share this effort with friends. Further they are more likely to trust a company who gives them such an opportunity.

As reviewed in a Sustainable Brands article:

"The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study reveals that more than nine-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average) and two-thirds use social media to engage around CSR (66% vs. 53% U.S. average)."

Companies involved with CSR benefit through enhanced company reputation and more sales. Traditional communications channels and messaging are less effective with millennials than delivering an entertaining CSR messaging through social media.

Research reveals that millennials are not a generic cohort and to effectively market to them they must be appreciated in terms of their subgroups. See six subgroups in the infographic below.



As reviewed by Triple Pundit, HR Magazine reported on a study carried out by culture consultancy Kin&Co, 80 percent of millennials want to work for an organization with values they share. Only 46 percent of baby boomers shared this view. This study is corroborated by a 2016 Deloitte Survey which showed that millennials believe that a businesses long term success is premised on employee satisfaction/loyalty/fair treatment and ethics/trust/integrity/honesty.

A Deloitte Survey found that millennials want to remain true to their values and contribute to the positive impact they believe business has on society. The study also showed that they are more likely to say no to a job offer from a company that is not aligned with their values.

This finding is supported by a number of other studies. A Net Impact study revealed that millennials more than other age groups indicated that it is essential or very important for them to have a job where I can make an impact on causes or issues that are important. In a New York Times Jenna Wortham showed that that millennials want to work for companies that place a premium on employee welfare, offer flexible scheduling and, above all, bestow a sense of purpose.

Leveraging the power of millennials for social and environmental change is not new. As reviewed by Sustainable Brands, corporate giants joined forces in 2014 to get millennials to act on climate change. A coalition of otherwise rival global corporations created a digital platform for young people to take action against climate change. The partnership of 20 big brands also included Facebook, Google and Twitter. It focused on “passion points” such as innovations in fashion, food, design and technology to combat animal extinction, pollution and deforestation. As explained by the organizers:

“Collectively will connect millennials to the innovations that are shaping the future, making it easy for them to act, buy, invest and promote the ideas that they believe in. To be part of the solution.”

This grassroots initiative directly challenged the fossil fuel industry's political control.

The companies said that “the pace and scale of what’s required now demands new business models, based on radical collaboration with each other, with NGOs and with consumers”.

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