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In a rapidly changing corporate climate, a growing and persistent focus has emerged on reducing negative impacts on communities, protecting the environment and making positive contributions to society.

Much of this movement is driven by millennials – those born roughly between the 1980’s and 1990’s – who are increasingly showing their support for an enhanced corporate social responsibility that aims to tackle pressing issues like global warming and inequality.

 

What Do Millennials Care About?

The 2017 Millennial Impact Report shed some light on millennial sentiments, revealing that this generation is most interested in causes that promote equity, equality and opportunity, as well as focusing their attention on issues that extend beyond themselves or their groups.  

 

Differences Between Millennials and Other Generations – in Numbers

Meanwhile, the 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report gives a good indication of the differences between millennials’ attitudes towards CSR in comparison to those of older generations. The report revealed that while 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand – a massive 73% of millennials had the same sentiment.

A pattern of changing attitudes towards CSR begin to emerge, particularly in terms of the distinct values that people are ready and willing to fight for. It is evident that millennials want the companies they work for and the brands they support to reflect their personal values.

In fact, the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study discovered that an impressive 62% of millennials said they’d take a pay cut to work for a company that’s socially responsible. Meanwhile, all other generations’ responses were 6% below that of millennials.

 

How Do These Attitudes Affect Consumption Decisions?

In terms of consumer behaviour, the same study found that more than 9 in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause – with 70% saying they would pay more for a product that supports an issue they care about.

So how are companies are adapting to millennial demands? Millennials have been pivotal to driving companies to uphold socially responsible practices and make necessary changes to protect both the environment and people in their immediate and wider communities.

 

WeWork Makes Sustainability a Priority  

Companies of all sizes – from global corporations to local businesses are taking note of these concerns and adapting their business practices. Recently, for instance, the massive US group WeWork, which provides shared workspaces and has offices across 20 countries around the world, has taken significant steps to satisfy the demands of young professionals based in their offices.

With a huge number of start-ups and SMEs taking advantage of the trendy co-working spaces, WeWork offices are filled predominantly by millennials – and the social responsibility demands of these millennials are plentiful. Driven particularly by a growing desire to reduce their environmental impact and employ more socially responsible practices, millennials have encouraged the global company to follow suit and match their expectations.

It appears that employee concerns and demands didn’t fall on deaf ears – WeWork has recently made significant changes in an effort to improve their practices and do their part to make a positive contribution to society.

 

Saying Goodbye to Plastic

Most recently, the company made a bold statement by removing all of the plastic cups that had been available and regularly restocked in all kitchen and bar areas. Instead, it invested in supplying every employee with their own personal reusable water bottle and replacing plastic cups with glasses and compostable alternatives – drastically reducing the amount of plastic that is discarded every day across global WeWork offices.

 

The Rise of Sustainable Eating

Prior to this move, WeWork was also praised for launching a company-wide meat ban in an effort to protect the environment. Since July of this year, the company has stopped serving meat at company events, and will no longer reimburse the cost of meat for its employees. It is anticipated that this initiative will save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 201.9 million kilograms of CO2 emissions and over 15 million animals by 2023.

 

Inspiring Social Startups and Innovation

Millennial consumer demand for social responsibility has not only encouraged businesses of all sizes to rethink their practices – but it has also spurred a wave of innovative start-ups that focus extensively on sustainability and making a positive contribution to society.  

The soaring popularly of socially conscious start-ups like Thrive Market and Elephant Box is driven almost exclusively by their appeal to millennials – who seek to consume responsibly and give their hard-earned money to companies that support causes they care most about.

 

This just goes to show that millennials are important drivers of change, encouraging companies to enhance their practices and make a real effort to support social and environmental efforts. With the influence that millennials currently have over corporate responsibility, both through working for these companies and consuming their products and services, it is likely that they will continue to shape company CSR practices long into the future.


Liza Kinnear

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