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What social & environmental brands mean for Generation Y

InSites Consulting has recently conducted a research community connecting 100 urban Millennials from 15 different cities around the world to learn about the dimensions and drivers behind cool brands, shops and places. One of the topics we discussed was the social and ecological responsibility of global brands. Various aspects like green claims, fair trade, animal welfare and climate change were tackled in an online on-going discussion among 18-29 year olds.

Generation Y worries about PEOPLE

One of the striking conclusions of our youth community was that Gen Y seems to be more worried about people than about the rest of the environment. To them, fair trade is a normal part of society and people deserve a right treatment wherever they are working on earth. Since they want to be paid a fair amount of money for their own work, Millennials feel that if Western people need products from developing countries, the wages should be fair too. Safe working places and ‘not exploiting people’ are synonyms for social responsibility to them, while Gen Y’s interpretation of environmental responsibility was much more vague. To them eco-care means keeping the impact on the environment as low as possible and both global and local actions are much appreciated, although the more local equals the more relevant to them. Although youth roots Body Shop’s policy against testing cosmetics on animals and thinks rare species should be protected, in the end humans are more important to most of them than animals

Define clear goals and become a change agent

“You support what you put your money in”, was one of the literal quotes of the research community. This actually means that if a company like Apple has their stuff produced in China in unsafe working circumstances, Gen Y feels it is Apple’s responsibility, even if it’s a third-party producer. Millennials generally don’t like companies to brag about their CSR programs. They appreciate those corporations that define clear company goals without big P.R. campaigns. Big multinationals like Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson received positive feedback of our Gen Y community because of their vast efforts to go green and communicate professionally about their objectives. Mars, committing to become exploitation-free by 2020 through Rainforest alliance & UTZ certification, was mentioned too.

When a company advocates these responsible actions and tries to push other players in the industry to follow the same path, it earns extra Gen Y respect. A brand like PUMA for instance is praised for making their eco footprint a shareholder KPI, improving working standards within the industry and sponsoring sports in emerging countries. Persistence in pursuing social and environmental goals is much appreciated. Even though Fair Trade, as a brand, went through difficult times, the consistent belief in its philosophy and core values is what matters to this generation. Cadbury and Sainsbury, which both went Fair Trade, are seen as great examples of social brands.

Climate change high on youth’s agenda

Gen Y is frequently confronted in media with nature disasters that are often linked to the changing climate. They do believe the concept of global warming, it’s not a myth and high on their agenda. They think we should act in the very near future to stop the climate change before it’s too late. Although youngsters say it’s clearly an urgent matter, they feel incapable of solving the problem themselves because of the huge global proportion of the climate problem. When asked for personal efforts they mention recycling and re-using packaging. Especially German youth seemed quite proud of the results of their national recycling efforts.

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