The Role of Millennials in Leveling Up Corporate Social Responsibility

Younger generations play a major part in deciding what the world is going to be like. As a millennial myself, I sought to see the role of millennials especially related to Corporate Social Responsibility. The findings make for an interesting read!

Growing up, I started noticing that my circle of friends was becoming more and more interested in environmental issues. They were becoming vegans, avoiding plastics, buying their clothes in thrift shops, and even becoming pretty careful about the brands they would use. My community was constantly looking for ways they could contribute to a better, more responsible society. I was proud to witness this sort of shift of awareness, so I started thinking, is this shift of awareness part of a generational long-term change?


Turns Out I Was Not All That Wrong

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According to a study by Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse, “81 percent of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.” The study is absolutely useful and it shows differences in opinions, as it reiterates that for millennials, consumption is personal. Horizon Media also notes that over 70% of millennials say that they decide to donate to charities based on what they are passionate about. For older generations, it’s about acting locally; 60% of Gen X-ers, 59% of boomers, and 54% of the mature population say they choose charities and causes based on what will help better their local community the most.

This means that if brands and companies want to keep remaining in business, they should not underestimate the power that millennials have in deciding what values they will promote, and also according to the U.S. Census (2015), there are 83.1 million millenials and they represent one-quarter of the population. Their opinions are strong and strict towards the products they decide to purchase, and this directly impacts the level of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that companies need to pursue to continue being in the market.


But What Does CSR Really Mean?

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As Carroll A.B puts it in the Academy of Management Review, “Corporate social responsibility is based on the stakeholder approach to sustainable business by achieving an obligation to internal vs. external stakeholders, impacting our society and our environment.”

Now, what makes the power of millennials so determining of the way the market will function is certainly their online presence. Millennials grew up facing the world’s digital revolution, and this instant access to information makes them more aware of brands and companies’ activities compared to the other previous generations. Their access to information is also making them more prone to unfold the fake profiles of companies that claim to work based on CSR principles but which are really exploiting workers or using materials that are not environmentally friendly. Millennials call these greenwashed companies. I suppose this is the greatest benefit of the online world. We now have access to pretty much everything that goes on, and being fooled by the corporations is no longer an easy scenario as it used to be, say, in the ’60s.

One of the major impacts of millennials was noted especially in 2018 when Donatella Versace announced that Versace would no longer work with real animal fur in its collections are moving forward.

Very recently in 2021, she also gave a very reflective insight to the New York Times, “A designer’s role in those days was instructing consumers on what to wear. Now it is the other way around. We work backward. It’s the millennials who decide what’s going to happen.”


Photo: fizkes/shutterstock


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