By Alexis Gimbel
The concept of corporate social responsibility, also known as “CSR,” is a company’s efforts to take accountability for its effects on the environment and society. A firm that practices CSR will often operate in a manner that surpasses the business standards required by government regulations. This ideal has led to the development of new business frameworks and markets due to the millennial generation’s concern for companies’ actions towards environmental and ethical issues.
Millennials, composed of Generation Y and Z, were born between 1980 and 2000. With over 80 million people, they are currently the largest living generation in the United States and will increasingly occupy positions of influence and responsibility. The concept of corporate social responsibility is likely to gain in popularity with this generation’s rise to prominence as consumers, managers, and business owners.
While the idea that businesses must assume a philanthropic role in society previously existed, the practice of CSR grew in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. This growth occurred in large part due to the impact of Howard R. Bowen’s work, Social Responsibility of the Businessman, published in 1953. The Encyclopedia of Public Relations states that Bowen’s doctrine of social responsibility “implied that, if business took on this responsibility voluntarily, many of society’s problems could be solved.” Bowen’s Encyclopedia permeated popular culture and influenced consumer norms and expectations of businesses.
Nielsen Solutions, a marketing data analytics company, surveyed 30,000 participants from 60 countries to analyze consumer preferences worldwide. The survey revealed that 55 percent of online consumers are willing to pay for socio-environmentally responsible products and services, like eco-friendly packaging. Millennials made up 51 percent of those consumers who responded positively towards paying extra for socially and environmentally friendly products.
In general, Millennials tend to be more supportive of socially conscious efforts than previous generations. According to the National Chamber Foundation, millennials connect with and are more loyal to brands associated with a mission or cause. Companies often market to millennials by appealing to their desire for a higher purpose. With technology and social media, business practices have become more transparent than ever before–and if unethical practices are revealed, millennials prove to be more loyal to their ideals than to product brands.
In their recent report, Nielsen’s chief marketing officer Amy Fenton stated,“Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions…This behavior is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands.”
Today’s consumers care about corporate social responsibility and companies’ effects on society and the environment. In their article, “Does CSR Enhance Employer Attractiveness? The Role of Millennial Job Seekers’ Attitudes,” Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, professor at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, and Victor Oltra, professor of management at the University of Valencia, analyzed how company values impact employer attractiveness. They found that millennial job seekers are more likely to both acknowledge CSR importance during job searches and reject a job offer if the employer neglects CSR. The article states that Millenials, “share a widespread belief that their responsibility is to make the world a better place. They are also convinced that companies have a responsibility to join them in this effort, so they are more likely to consider CSR while deciding where to work.”
As the concept of corporate social responsibility rises into prominence, several studies show that millennials around the world are more motivated than older generations to promote sustainable business practices. As a result, the way companies do business and market themselves to consumers has changed significantly.