This is a weekly academic blog for my MBA class Lasallian Business Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Millennials have been getting a bad rap for being self-entitled “kidults”. But reluctant adults as we may seem, based on the recent Horizon Media‘s Finger on the Pulse Study (2017), we might actually change the world.
The new generation grew up during the rise of self-esteem messaging. We grew up insanely idealistic, slightly self-entitled, and socially hyper-aware. Often, we’ve been called as temperamental brats and narcissists. We are also digital natives who have witnessed the rapid advancement of technology and interconnectivity. As such, lonesome as we may look with our palms stuck on our smartphones, we actually belong to a digital tribe. Add that to the quicker spread of information that immersed us to as many advocacies as you can think!
As we now occupy the labor force and the market, businesses and nonprofits have leveraged the millennial culture to sell their own businesses and nonprofits. Advocacy and brand messaging now seemed to be interchangeable.
The Way Millennials Buy
In the era of superheroes, millennials seem to aspire to save the world, one shopping bag at a time.
This is evidenced by successful marketing via injecting social relevance into the most commonplace products and services. Even the most commercial brands have learned to incorporate words such as organic, natural, biodegradable, eco-friendly, reusable, healthy, and local to their products and services.
CAUSE + Sumption has become a way of life, in which millennials purchase from businesses with the same values that they espouse. And it’s not just about businesses having a three-month long campaign. Millennials are looking for the real thing! We are known to make well-researched purchases. The Intelligence Group’s Cassandra Report says that 72% of millennials research online before making an in-store purchase.
What’s more is that we also bother to check if these businesses are actually doing something for the greater good. A whopping 81% of our generation (Horizon Media, 2017) expect businesses to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. These activities may involve donating to charity, paying their employees right, or reducing their carbon footprint.
A successful example of this is Tom’s footwear’s giving back model, wherein purchasing one pair of Tom’s will purchase another pair for the underprivileged. Cafes doing a suspended coffee campaigns have also gone viral. This is where customers can buy two cups of coffee — one for them, and another for the next homeless man who walks in. There have been boycott movements for businesses running sweatshops, such as Gap, Nike, and Liz Claiborne. Locally, at the height of the friction with China, patriotic consumers are encouraging the masses not to buy goods made in China.
In short, millennials don’t just purchase products out of need. Our purchases are a badge that seem to reflect who we are, or what kind of citizens we aspire to be.
The Way Millennials Work
It’s even more surprising to find out that what’s in our heart is in our pockets.
Millennials grew up at the time when the triple bottom line has become the standard to measure corporate success. Sustainability reporting via the Global Reporting Initiative, as well as alignment with UN Millennium Development Goals, have also been adopted by more companies by the time we entered the labor force. As such, we have become more aware and therefore choosier when it comes to the companies we dedicate our productive times with.
Unheard of in the previous generations, millennials are even willing to go as far as getting a pay cut just to work for socially-relevant companies. The 2015 Cone Communications study showed that millennials are more willing to work for truly good businesses even if it meant having a lower salary. The gap between this worldview of millennials and the older generations combined are huge. It really is a mark of a generational change.
A 2014 Nielsen study says that 70% of millennials preferred employers who are committed to the community. This makes it a challenge for employers to keep their millennial workforce engaged by genuinely contributing to society via corporate social responsibility. It’s no longer just about having pool tables, company outings, and flexible hours as employee benefits. They now must answer the question everly millennial asks themselves, “What can I do for society while being at work? (a classic example of Work-Life Integration)” This has made employee volunteering time-off and matching employee contributions a great way for the company to make the ever-mobile millennials stay.
Some of us even go as far as designing our business around the development sector and corporate social responsibility. As an example, local startups are first to incorporate socially-relevant causes to their new businesses. Not a surprise, as most of these are run by millennials anyway. For example, Cropital is a site that allows micro-lending to local farmers. Another startup, Storm Benefits provide a means for employees to choose their own company benefits such as travel, wellness, and fitness product and services discounts.
These new studies on millennials and CSR all the more make corporate social responsibility initiatives a win-win. While companies can help society thru their ethical business practices as well as socially-beneficial products and services, they can keep their younger workforce engaged, and even attract more consumers to purchase from their brands.
As a millennial myself, I can’t wait to see our generation grow up and see what we can do for the future. If we are already ethical as consumers, employees, and citizens, we might actually fulfill our idealistic dreams of making the world a better place.