5 Reasons Why Millennial-Focused Brands Cannot Afford to Ignore Social Responsibility

1. Millennials are a huge group with growing purchasing power

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, are typically defined as those born between 1980 and 1995. Their influence on today’s global economy can hardly be overstated, offering huge pro t potential for companies that win their business:

  • Millennials are the largest generation alive today, counting 1.8 billion globally.

  • Millennials account for over $1 trillion in consumer spending in the United States alone, and around $10 trillion globally.

  • Millennials will outpace Baby Boomer earnings by 2018, when their spending power is forecasted to exceed $200 trillion worldwide and $2.5 trillion in the US.

  • 2. Millennials hold brands to a high standard of social responsibility

    Social responsibility plays an important role in Millennial buying habits. In fact, 87% of Millennials are more willing to purchase products with a social or environmental benefit, and don't hesitate to switch brands in favor of one they consider more ethical.

    However, when the Millennial consumer is satisfied by the brand's product and CSR efforts, they tend to develop strong brand loyalty. A 2015report shows that 60% Millennials are often or always loyal to their chosen brands, especially when they feel that the company behind it listens to their feedback.

    These figures show that socially responsible companies can strongly benefit from a good relationship with Millennials, and vice versa:

  • 91% of Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause; 

  • 88% would stop buying a brand's products if they learned of the company's unethical or deceptive practices; 

  • 82% would tell their friends and family about the CSR efforts of a brand they support; 

  • 86% want companies to tell them more about their efforts to operate more responsibly.

  • 3. Millennials care about multiple social issues

    Compared with other generations, Millennials are concerned with a higher number of social issues. Their formative years took place in the era of unprecedented globalization and child labor scandals. They are also the first generation to grow up with “cause marketing” carried out by companies in support of a wide variety of causes, from anti-trafficking to world hunger. These factors have shaped their expectations for companies – namely, that businesses should solve social problems, not make them worse. In fact, 86% of Millennials expect that companies must do more than make a pro t, but also address social and environmental issues.Among the top issues that Millennials are expecting companies to address are:

    Economic development 

    Poverty and hunger 

    The environment 

    Human rights 



    4. Millennials are willing to pay more for ethically sourced goods

    Research shows Millennials will open their wallets more readily for ethically sourced goods. More than half of Millennials seek out products with social responsibility benefits and will choose them over unethically produced goods.Additionally, among the 55% of global consumers willing to pay extra for socially responsible products, roughly half are Millennials.

    While low-cost retailers remain popular, unethical manufacturing practices continue to generate negative headlines for many of them. Millennials are more likely to leave a brand after learning about its unethical conduct, because they believe that their choice of brands paints a picture of them as a person.This is also why they tend to actively seek out ethical labels and cause-oriented companies.

    For example, look at the popularity of Toms, a company that donates a pair of shoes for each pair purchased at regular price. A base model pair of Toms sells for $48–which may seem a relatively high price for fairly simple shoes, but one that consumers are willing to pay, knowing that their extra expense funds a charitable act rather than the brand's bottom line. In addition to their giving programs, Toms also emphasizes supply chain transparency, regularly auditing their manufacturers to prevent unethical labor practices. 12 This example clearly shows that higher prices do not deter Millennial consumers from ethically sourced goods.


    5. Social media gives Millennials massive in uence on other buyers

    If there was one de ning attribute of Millennials, it would be their use of technology and social media. Not only do Millennials make decisions based on social media perceptions, but they can also use social networks to directly confront a company about irresponsible practices, launch petitions or boycotts, and quickly spread negative word-of-mouth advertising.

  • Social media is a key outlet for Millennials' activism. Roughlytwo-thirds of Millennials use social media to engage companies on social issues. Even more importantly, 26% of them take to social media to share negative information about companies that fail to live up to their commitments.
  • Millennials are constantly connected. Millennials spend an average of 5.4 hours on social media daily. Facebook remains a popular platform for getting news, but the younger side of the Millennials is shifting towards other social networks, such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit.
  • Millennials wish to genuinely engage with brands. Brands that use social media for transparent and authentic communication will get more attention from the Millennials. On the contrary, companies that are overly promotional, self-centered or dishonest will have a hard time connecting with this group.
  • Millennials are also known for being strongly in uenced by peer perceptions, with 90% trusting their friends for product recommendations,and 1 in 4 being less likely to purchase from brands their friends disapprove of. This influence is not limited to the same generation: Millennials also frequently influence their parents' buying decisions.

    Now more than ever, consumers are leveraging social media to effect positive change. A Facebook campaign challenging Hershey on child labor issues collected over 50,000 petition signatures, ultimately forcing the company to change its practices.Interestingly, Hershey had already signed an agreement promising to ght child slavery in the industry, over ten years ago, but only took real action when faced with social media pressure.