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Why younger generations are more willing to change in the name of sustainability

young people

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It is a common assumption that younger generations — Gen Z and millennials — are more greatly concerned with global challenges. Born in the digital age, these generations are seen to be more health-conscious, socially aware and environmentally responsible. This narrative is consistently reiterated by the media who frequently highlight the willingness of these younger generations to stand up for what they care about.

In our Radically Better Future: The Next Gen Reckoning Report with BBMG, 73 percent of young people support public protests to raise awareness of issues, with the Black Lives Matter movement cited as an example of the next generation raising their voices on the issues that matter. This is in comparison to their older counterparts, who are perceived to be less vocal and less optimistic about the future.

The next generation is looking for brands to lead the way and want brands to create change with them, not just for them.

Our understanding of these generational differences is particularly important when considering how businesses and brands can best connect with consumers to both encourage and activate their support for a more healthy and sustainable future.

Recent research from GlobeScan’s annual Healthy and Sustainable Living study has helped to provide a deeper understanding of how generations differ in their opinions, experience and attitudes toward sustainability.

Designed in collaboration with a range of partners including CVS Health, IKEA, PepsiCo, Visa and WWF International, this study surveyed 27,000 people across 27 markets to explore their sentiment around healthier, sustainable lifestyles. One takeaway from the research is that globally, younger generations are more likely to feel ashamed ("very often" or "often") about living lifestyles that are unhealthy and are not environmentally friendly, compared to their older peers.

Social pressure

With this in mind, it is not surprising that younger generations are also more interested in changing their behaviors to become more healthy and sustainable in their day-to-day lives.

Gen Z are the most likely to say they desire to change their lifestyles to be more healthy, environmentally friendly and helpful to others, followed by millennials.

A similar pattern persists when looking at actions taken in the past year, with Gen Z consumers claiming to have made some or major changes to be more environmentally friendly (74 percent), healthy (80 percent) and more helpful to others (77 percent).

desire to change

Despite this, the gap between actions taken and the desire to change remains significant in all age groups, demonstrating a key challenge brands and businesses must overcome to activate positive change.

Perhaps being conscious of this gap, Gen Z and millennials are the most self-critical. They believe they have the capacity to do more than what they are doing and are also more likely to believe that what is good for them may not be good for the environment.

While it is difficult to highlight why exactly this intention-action gap exists, findings from our study suggest ways to overcome it, particularly for younger generations who demonstrate aspirations for a better future.

For Gen Z and millennials, there is a clear intention to find out more, with a significant proportion claiming to have looked for information related to healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyles in the past year. These generations are also more likely to be inspired by online influencers or celebrities to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

information

The next generation is looking for brands to lead the way — 81 percent of those under 30 believe brands are an essential part of the solution for the global challenges facing humanity today.

In addition, they want brands to create change with them, not just for them — 85 percent want to share ideas and experiences with brands to develop better solutions.

And they will reward brands that take responsibility for their role in creating the change they seek — 93 percent of corporate employees under 30 agree that the more socially and environmentally responsible their companies become, the more motivated and loyal they will be as employees.

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