Why Gen Zers (Like Me) Are Challenging Businesses to Act More Sustainably By Gemma Laws

Environmental issues are becoming increasingly hard for any organisation to ignore. Pressure to act sustainably is coming not only from governments and international organisations but also from my generation – Generation Z. 

I want to offer my perspective on why Generation Z especially cares about companies acting sustainably, the implications of this, and what organisations can do to gain the trust of Generation Zers like me.

First, let’s look at the statistics. In a recent study by First Insight, 75% of Generation Z said they value sustainability over brand names when making purchasing decisions (up from 73% in 2020), compared to 71% of Millennials and 65% of Baby Boomers. That same report found that 76% of Generation Z expect retailers and brands to become more sustainable.

Many of my peers are making conscious efforts to avoid companies with poor sustainability credentials and instead buy more second-hand items.

Generation Z also has a broader definition of sustainability than other generations that goes beyond products made from recycled/sustainable materials to include issues such as sustainable manufacturing. This translates to demands for sustainable practices across all areas of retail operations.

The drive to make sustainable choices isn’t just relegated to our shopping baskets; Generation Z also wants more sustainability from the companies we work for.

According to recent data from Bupa, 64% of Gen Zers say it’s important for employers to take action on environmental issues. For some, failure to take action is a deal breaker; Ecological Awakening‘ is an initiative set up by European university students and graduates who pledge to only work for environmentally conscious companies. As of July 2022, it has received over 33k signatories.

Why Generation Z cares about sustainability

But why is sustainability such a dominant concern for Generation Z?

Climate change is a crisis that affects everyone – albeit to differing extents. While older generations may view climate change as a threat to their children or grandchildren’s futures, Generation Z recognises that we are likely to experience first-hand life-threatening consequences of climate change within our lifetimes. Some of us already are.

As ‘digital natives’, we also have unprecedented access to news and information about climate change via the internet, social media and global events like COP26. Considering this, it’s no wonder that climate change is a source of anxiety for more than two-thirds of Gen Z.

Attached to this anxiety is a sense of responsibility. As time continues to run out for humanity to act, 63% of Gen Z feels the ‘burden of climate change’ on our shoulders. This compels many of us to make sustainable choices when it comes to how we spend our money and how we earn it.

Why companies need to listen

It’s time for companies to pay attention to our concerns. After all, Gen Z now makes up 40% of global consumers and 20% of the workforce. Losing out on these potential customers and employees is something that most companies cannot afford.

It’s not just Gen Z consumers who are shopping with sustainability in mind. Gen Z is also beginning to influence the purchasing decisions of other generations – most noticeably our parents in Generation X. Alongside changing my habits, I also encourage my parents to try out more sustainable choices. So even companies whose target audience doesn’t include Generation Z will increasingly feel the impact of these demands.

Sustainability credentials are also likely to become a deciding factor in having a strong workforce. The UK is facing a hiring crisis; ONS data shows there are currently more job vacancies than people looking for work. Furthermore, the ongoing ‘Great Resignation‘, in which many members of Gen Z are participating, reveals that workers are willing to quit their jobs for companies more aligned with their needs and values.

This crisis is hitting some industries harder than others; for instance, the construction sector may need over a quarter of a million extra workers by 2026. To attract and retain the necessary talent, these industries must adapt to Generation Z’s environmental demands.

In this competitive retail and recruitment landscape, the organisations that demonstrate genuine commitment and transparency towards sustainability will have the advantage, while those that fail to adapt will fall behind.

Conclusions/next steps

So, what can your organisation do to respond to Generation Z’s demands?

As I mentioned, Generation Z is uniquely informed about climate change. This makes it crucial that your organisation has the right knowledge and training on sustainability.

To support you in this, the Supply Chain Sustainability School has developed free online training covering a wealth of topics that will help bring you up to speed with the core concepts around sustainability.

You can then use this knowledge to put practices in place to measure and improve your environmental impact.

If you need tailored advice or support on how to make sustainable changes, please get in touch with our team of experts.

For more information

Gemma Laws
Digital Marketing Executive

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