The majority of young consumers want corporations to take more responsibility when it comes to combating climate change—but what actions do they want brands to take?
- The effects of climate change are seeping into young people’s purchasing decisions: over a third of young consumers tell us they have changed the products they buy because of it
- But they don’t can’t do it alone: The majority of young people believe that corporations should take more responsibility for fighting climate change
- Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to want eco-friendly products, packaging, practices, and reusable products from brands
Climate change is an issue that has been a top priority for Gen Z and Millennials for some time. It’s so important to them that it’s even been seeping into their shopping habits and purchases: YPulse’s recent sustainability report found that over a third of young consumers say they have changed the products they buy because of climate change, and nearly a third have changed the way they shop as well. But young people can’t be the only ones carrying the weight when it comes to helping the environment. In fact, we told you that it is one of the top causes they want brands to get involved in, while the majority of 13-39-year-olds tell us that corporations should take more responsibility for fighting climate change. But what exactly do they want brands to do?
Our behavioral survey asked 13-39-year-olds, “What actions should brands be taking to help the environment?” to find what Gen Z and Millennials say they want brands to do most, and which generation has stronger desires for brands to be eco-friendly:
More than anything else, young consumers think brands should be creating eco-friendly products, packaging, and reusable items. They are more likely to choose these options than those about research and education, indicating that Gen Z and Millennials want brands to help them be environmentally responsible when shopping. Over a third tell us they seek out eco-friendly products already.
But their responses also show something else: Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to think brands should be taking many of these eco-friendly actions. It should be noted that our data shows the younger generation doesn’t have the spending power to purchase all of the eco-friendly products they want, with 50% saying “I’d like to buy more eco-friendly products, but I care about price more.” But clearly they are interested in environmentally conscious items and ultimately they want brands to provide them more eco-friendly options that are accessible to them. In fact, our data shows that the majority of Gen Z is interested in eco-friendly products ranging from beauty and personal care to food and beverage to sustainably made and secondhand clothing. When we interviewed snack brand Impact Foods last year, its Gen Z founders Nick Oliveri and Corey Nobile told us that their generation has made sustainability “paramount in a way that previous generations have not,” while Loonar Clothing’s then 15-year-old founder Jack Schwartz told us that he thinks people his age are more thoughtful about the environment.
Fashion brands especially have been coming up with ways to be more eco-friendly and sustainable in recent years, whether it be through teaming up with resale platforms like Depop or ThredUp, getting creative with recycling and upcycling, or giving accessories a second life. Some of the most recent examples of brands getting more eco-friendly includes Target who just launched a Target Zero label that features new and existing products designed to reduce waste. The retailer also introduced its first net zero energy store that features solar carports, an electric HVAC system, CO2 refrigeration, and LED lighting, while Amazon also debuted a sustainable grocery store concept with similar features. Meanwhile, beauty brands are starting to embrace compostable packaging and refillable bottles to “curb the industry’s waste problem,” while restaurant chains like Panera are coming up with fun, weird ways to market sustainability to young consumers in the form of a sustainable, reusable Bread Bowl bike basket. Even the toy industry is trying to reach the planet’s youngest gen by making a play at families and Millennial parents as popular toy makers release products made from materials that are more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Companies like JanSport have been especially vocal and transparent about how they have been more sustainable to reach Gen Z consumers. During Earth Day last year, the brand launched two sustainable collections; one with upcycle artist and designer Nicole Mclaughlin that included a raffle and give back portion benefitting The Slow Foundation as well as a Ski n’ Hike collection that utilized old scraps and repurposed them into new products. When we interviewed JanSport president Roger Spatz, he went in-depth about the materials they used for their products, and emphasized that leadership among brands need to share the same sustainability values their young customers do in order to reach them in authentic ways, stating that “We wanted to be able to articulate those particular items that our consumers care about, and these are things that marry it back to our brand internally, and what our people care about as well. I’ve always had a strong opinion that if you have a purpose that you share and believe in internally, that shines bright externally. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Meanwhile, 41% of Gen Z and Millennials think brands should educate consumers on how to be environmentally friendly. We told you about the brands creating digital content around sustainability, many of which included educational series teaching viewers about how to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Plant-based milk Silk also launched an Earth Day campaign last year to host eco-counseling sessions with young people to turn their “anxiety into action.”
It’s obvious that Gen Z and Millennials care about climate change immensely, and that they want the brands they shop from to genuinely care about it, too. What’s even more clear is that many of the actions young people want brands to take to help the environment have to do with creating more sustainable products, packaging, and practices—with Gen Z the most likely to want brands to take these steps. Given that Gen Z (and their kids’ generations) will be the ones who will feel and see the long-term effects of climate changes, it makes sense that they would be the most concerned with how the crisis will impact their futures. With Earth Day coming up next month, it’s a good reminder for brands to take serious actions to make a change year-round.
YPulse Business users can access the full Sustainability behavioral report and data here.
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