Meet the New Advocates of Social Impact

Meet the New Advocates of Social Impact

Without a doubt, stories about Millennials are unavoidable in the media today. We’ve all heard about how they’re climbing ladders to taking the lead in politics, business, philanthropy, and everywhere else. Since the Millennial generation began entering the workforce about 10 years ago, the spotlight has been fixated on this emerging cohort as more socially aware than any in recent history. Many argue that if employers want to retain these young contributors, they had better respond to the expectations these young people have about corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Millennials are estimated to be the largest proportion of any generation workforce by 2025, and their unique set of characteristics will reshape our world. Many in this generation are known for being well-educated, entrepreneurial, tech savvy and idealistic. They take risks, are bold and want to change the world. Unlike past generations, they want to make their passions, inspirations and desire to do good part of their identity—and part of their work. The lines between personal passions and professional engagements are already rapidly disappearing. As a result, this commitment to doing good in the workplace is quickly becoming the new norm that will define the generation.


From buying products associated with a cause they care about to using their online networks to amplify social and environmental messages, In 2015, Cone Communications released the Millennial CSR Study that found that Millennials are universally more engaged in CSR efforts than previous generations. The study, the most comprehensive snapshot of how Millennials engage with CSR efforts reveals that more than 9 in 10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average) and two-thirds use social media to engage around CSR (66% vs. 53% U.S. average), and 62% are willing to take a pay cut to work for a responsible company (vs. 56% U.S. average). From buying products associated with a cause to using their online networks to amplify social and environmental messages, Millennials are universally more engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts.


Millennials are more fervent in their support and more willing to participate in CSR efforts if given the opportunity, from purchasing products with a social or environmental benefit (87% vs. 83% U.S. average) to volunteering for a cause supported by a company they trust (74% vs. 56% U.S. average). Yet, Millennials are also prepared to make personal sacrifices in their own lives to make an impact on issues they care about – whether that’s paying more for a product (70% vs. 66% U.S. average), sharing products rather than buying (66% vs. 56% U.S. average) or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company (62% vs. 56% U.S. average).


As digital natives, Millennials believe social media can be their megaphone to making a positive difference. They are more willing to voice opinions about CSR efforts directly to companies (70% vs. 60% U.S. average) and are more likely to use social media as a way to address or engage with companies and issues (66% vs. 53% U.S. average). Although most use social media to share positive information (38% vs. 30% U.S. average) and learn about issues (33% vs. 27% U.S. average), Millennials also see social media as a way to communicate openly with companies (18% vs. 14% U.S. average) or contribute directly to efforts (17% vs. 12% U.S. average).


Engaging Millennials in CSR efforts can trigger a positive boon to company reputation and bottom line. Millennials want companies to tell them how they are striving to improve the world around them and more than nine-in-ten (93%) feel better about companies upon learning of those efforts.


It is understandable that the Millennial generation would hold these beliefs considering the influences with which they have come of age. This cohort, more than any other, has been imbued with images of environmental and human rights abuses since they were tots. The news has been filled with stories of corporate misdeeds and governmental missteps. At the same time, most in this generation have come of age in the relative comfort of an expanding economy, globalization and an explosion of technological conveniences. With this sense of having the privileges of society, it is only natural then that they would embrace the desire to right the world’s wrongs.


This is a generation working for good, not just financial returns. Millennials wants to be part of a solution and they are willing to try and tackle our most pressing challenges to help bring about transformative change in the social and corporate sectors. Millennials are facilitating this demand to integrate social good opportunities into the workplace they want to be a part of, not the one that currently exits. The companies that successfully engage this group and answer their call will ultimately help to catalyze it within the corporate sector allowing for a new, more valuable kind of return.

Deena Tannous 





All, 2016