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The Role Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility are Playing in Millennial Purchasing Decisions

The Role Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility are Playing in Millennial Purchasing Decisions

We’re sure that this isn’t the first time you’ve been told that Millennials are a different breed of consumer — we’ve touched on it before, after all — but we’re also sure it won’t be the last. That’s because the values of millennials play a critical role in the way they shop. With a population that clocks in about 75 million, and a purchasing power behind only Baby Boomers at $170 billion, they’re not a generation to be treated flippantly on account of their age (18 to 35), because traditional advertising — that is, the way your brand relates to them, not the channels you use — isn’t going to appeal to them very well, if at all. That’s why today’s post is all about why corporate responsibility is important to Millennials, which includes sustainability.

Why Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Matters to Millennials

In considering your positioning with this influential segment, it’s important to understand why sustainability is important to Millennials in addition to the standard perspective of corporate responsibility. You see, it’s about more than the mere minimum of eco-friendly packaging or brands that are nominally involved in social causes. Similar to the way they want a singularly consistent, omni-channel experience of a brand, Millennials want clear claims and demonstrations of sustainability from the production values and packaging to the way it helps them live sustainable lives. What’s more, they want to see real end-to-end corporate responsibility that stretches from the way a business treats its employees to the way it aids global citizens — something they also want to be consistent, and more importantly, authentic.

The reasons likely stem from two big influences. Firstly, Gen X may be the generation that grew up with growing awareness of the Earth’s environmental problems, but Millennials are the ones that grew up knowing that the planet and humanity’s comfortable existence on it is at risk. They tend to eschew labels like “environmentalist,” yet they are more likely than other generations to support strict environmental regulations and policies that promote environmental benefits (e.g., green energy development). They’re also the inheritors of major social movements that demand broader social awareness. This is absolutely integrated with the fact that they’ve come of age in one of the worst economies the nation has seen so far. That means Millennials want to be a part of something meaningful, something that’s bigger than themselves even when they don’t have a lot of funds, experience, or opportunity.

Second is the internal need to be consistent with themselves and with society. Millennials in particular (although Gen Z may be much the same) are image-conscious consumers, and roughly half of them believe that the brands that they buy and use speak to how they fit into the world and how they themselves are perceived. They believe their brand choices share their values, even their identity, with everyone around them.

How This Affects How They Shop

At the most basic, Millennials use information about how your brand functions within the sustainability and responsibility context to decide whether or not to shop with your brand. About 93% of Millennials feel better about a brand when they find out about the brand’s efforts to better the world around them socially and environmentally. Another 51% check the packaging and information for goods and services to determine if it’s environmentally friendly before they’ll purchase, and 73% are willing to try new products or brands when they’re associated with supporting a cause, even if the brand or product is unfamiliar. Here’s some more statistics you ought to think about:

  • 75% of Millennials said it’s either fairly or very important that a company give back rather than just making money.
  • The responsible efforts of brands directly influences 85% of Millennials‘ decision to buy or recommend.
  • 86% of Millennials want to learn about a brand’s responsible efforts from the brand itself.
  • 89% of Millennials are more loyal to companies that support solutions to specific social issues.
  • 40% of Millennials say that social responsibility makes a brand more “sticky,” while another 31% claim “saying important things” does the trick.
  • 1 in 3 Millennials will support a brand based on their stance on causes, while 4 in 5 say it makes them more likely to purchase and 3 in 4 will think more highly of the brand.
  • 83% of Millennials believe brands need to do more to enact positive change, and they’re willing to pitch in and partner with brands to pull it off.
  • 64% of Millennials will abandon a brand in favor of a desirable new alternative (which includes social and sustainability issues).
  • Assuming all else is comparable (e.g., price), Millennials will switch brands to one that supports a good cause.
  • 26% of Millennials are willing to pay more for products associated to a good cause.
  • 59% are willing to pay more for sustainable products that present the right image.

A Final Note on Segmentation and Reaching Millennials

When tapping into the values of Millennials, remember that as such a large segment, they’re also a varied and multifaceted segment. One-size-fits-all approaches, even when aimed specifically at their generation, aren’t going to make the cut in earning their purchase loyalty. Do the market research you need to in order to understand which causes are most important to the customers you’re actually trying to reach. Remember that some of the opportunities may even be local and earn you brand awareness within your community. And of course, you need to practice normal marketing good practices, such as determining where your customers want to intersect with them on these topics. Be transparent and take extra steps to create a solid relationship through regular communication.

That means you’re also going to need a fresh look at the value propositions you’re presenting to them. You see, it’s not enough to be just socially responsible — despite the fact that 65% of Millennials have said that a brand could keep their loyalty by engaging in philanthropy, sustainability is twice as important to the Millennial consumer. You also need to be visibly sustainable, because for as much as Millennials will look into various companies to see their involvement with causes, etc., loudly broadcasting shared values is going to make your brand the easy choice.

Now that you understand why corporate responsibility is important to Millennials and that, in turn, is important to your business, it’s time to take a look at the sustainability of your brand and the way that you market to them. The perspective we’ve given you into the values of Millennials should operate as an excellent launching point for directing your own market research and auditing your current efforts to reach a segment that will only grow in spending power.