Millennials roughly comprise the generation that is now aged between 20 and 35. They are major consumers of goods and services, and are increasingly taking on senior, decision-making positions in business, politics and the not-for-profit sector. In other words, they have clout, and one thing that informs their decision-making is corporate social responsibility (CSR).
How big an issue is this? A Cone Communications study, suggested that when it comes to making purchasing decisions, deciding on where to work and what products and services to recommend, CSR was a consideration for more than 78% of millennials. And when it comes to recommendations, this generation is connected like none before it. Millennials spend up to five hours a day engaging on social media and a lot of that activity occurs around brands, products and businesses.
The gap between interest and action
While it’s great to see such a high level of interest in CSR, it is tinged with cynicism. Only 15% of millennials think that companies can do much to address social and environmental issues, and they also doubt their own ability to bring about positive change. But rather than being a problem, this opens up opportunities for progressive businesses to prove otherwise and to attract a loyal following in the process.
What does it have to do with recycling?
Of course, recycling isn’t the be all and end all of CSR. It’s just one component. But, importantly, it is something that most people already do, at least to some extent. It is something people basically understand, so it provides a great foundation on which to build deeper engagement.
One company that has gone down this path is international clothing retailer H&M. They take any unwanted garments, in any condition, of any brand and recycle them back into new fabric. Do you think this program, promoted via social media, makes millennials more interested in H&M? You bet. Do you think it helps the company recruit committed employees who want a bit of a feel good factor along with their pay packets? You can tick that box too. In fact, experts have suggested that sustainability is the only way forward for fashion brands, thanks to consumer demand.
Small actions add up
You don’t have to be a mega-multinational and set up a recycling scheme on a grand scale for your business to get in on the act. There are plenty of existing schemes you can hop on board like Cartridges 4 Planet Ark. But even small businesses can easily set up their own battery recycling program, ensure all their lighting waste is properly recycled, and deal with their e-waste in a responsible way. Get a few of these initiatives going and not only will you have a string of good news stories to share with your potential customers, you might even inspire a few millennials to get in on the act.
There’s just one other thing about CSR. Be genuine. Fake it and you won’t make it. Social media is a two-edged sword that can sing your praises one day and tarnish your reputations the next.