Generation Z is Playing a Major Role in the Sustainability Agenda: Here’s How and Why

If we would replace the term Generation Z with Generation Green, we wouldn’t be far off the mark. This generation of the world leads the sustainability agenda and forces brands and businesses to scrap past operations and product lines for sustainable variants.

Indeed, the first name that comes to mind when talking about this generation’s influence on sustainability is Greta Thunberg. Many others like Greta are leading the charge and driving sustainability both in corporate agendas and in everyday life. And why shouldn’t they? After all, Gen Z has the highest stake in a sustainable future and stands to lose the most if the world doesn’t get its act together. 

Generation Z is playing a significant role in three manners, which are distinct yet interrelated. They come into the picture as:

  • Consumers

Several studies have shown that Generation Z displays socially- and environmentally conscious buyer behavior. They tend to support brands that have sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly product lines, supply chains, ethos, and processes. The increased spending abilities, and access to some incredible global platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, has put even more power in their hands to buy and shun as they please. As we roll on into a new decade, being associated and actively supporting ethical and conscious brands is becoming the new symbol of status — and the planet has all the more to gain from this shift.

  • Investors

Today’s new-age investors put money where their mouth is — in forward-thinking firms that play a positive role in the sustainability agenda. This shift makes it clear that environmental risks and climate change are the top focus areas. However, Gen Z is also actively pumping money into businesses with effective and ethical corporate governance systems, making other organizations stumble out of their favor.

  • Employees

Gone are the days when a job was for financial stability alone. Generation Z puts employers on the hot seat when it comes to sustainability, holding them accountable for conservative processes and demanding climate-friendly changes. In fact, a commitment to sustainability has climbed up the ladder of priorities when looking for a new job — it now influences hiring, retention, engagement, and skillsets.

What does Gen Z’s passion for the sustainability agenda mean for businesses?

With every new generation, the quest for sustainability seems to be strengthening — and this means a direct impact on which business makes the cut, and which ones are forced to shut shop. It’s worth mentioning that surface-level sustainability doesn’t cut it anymore because Gen Z is eagle-eyed and well-versed in differentiating between greenwashing and authentic impact. This means that efforts must go beyond checking a “sustainability” box and calling it a day. 

Here are some significant behaviors that businesses looking to get on the right side of Gen Z need to look out for:

  • Higher spending on sustainable brands

Gen Z isn’t afraid to spend more on brands that are well and truly sustainable, whether that’s by being eco-friendly, ethical, socially conscious, or all of these. This attention isn’t reserved only for the end products, but for the processes as well. This is why we continue to see global retailers such as H&M and Zara being consistently under fire for horrifying factory conditions and low worker pay — their ‘Conscious’ line isn’t enough. 

  • Increased loyalty to sustainable businesses

A vast chunk of Gen Z shoppers tries to buy products and support brands that align with their values. They’re ready to switch brands if they find more responsible alternatives and stick to the businesses that check all the right boxes for them, even if it’s a bit more expensive than previous purchases. As mentioned before, this loyalty goes beyond the label, deep into processes, perceptions, and company values. 

  • Boycott of brands that don’t pass the test

A significant percentage of Gen Z shoppers have boycotted and outright stopped purchasing from brands because they say or behave in a way that doesn’t align with their values. Not only does this shake up sales, but it can also spiral into an image disaster for brands that don’t respond appropriately. Word spreads like wildfire in the age of the internet, so a call for boycotting can be debilitating for a business anywhere in the world. 

How can businesses reach Gen Z authentically?

Conventional marketing strategies don’t cut it for Gen Z — in place of marketing jargon, they look for authenticity. It’s tricky to reach out to such an aware, diverse audience that holds so much sway over future markets. That said, it’s imperative that businesses put in the efforts because the rewards are manifold.

  • Embrace transparency

Gen Z consumers are very rarely swayed by advertisements and other marketing strategies — they’d instead analyze data and reach decisions all on their own. For this reason, it’s important that businesses prioritize transparency in supply chains, production, finances, and values. New-age businesses do this by disclosing critical information on their websites and social media. It shows that this business has nothing to add, which adds a layer of trust to its perception in the larger world. 

  • Skip the marketing jargon

Gen Z customers can easily see through the marketing jargon and seem to prefer businesses that are truthful and relatable. Businesses are better off being simple, clear, and honest in their messaging and focusing instead on righting wrongs and prioritizing sustainable processes. 

  • Be vocal about a cause 

Gen Z sees being vocal as a show of strength and, by extension, sitting on the fence as unacceptable. Businesses and brands are recommended to choose a cause and be vocal about it. This doesn’t mean all talk, of course — it also means that the brand adopts these principles into their ways of working and extends support beyond social media captions and occasional airtime. This was best seen when the #BlackLivesMatter movement reached a crescendo in 2020, as several brands aligned themselves in support of the cause while others that didn’t bore the brunt of their inaction. 

  • Give them something extra

Gen Z appreciates the personal touch and brands going over and above selling their wares, so to speak. This could take on several forms. For some businesses, this looks like donating to charities and causes for each purchase; for others, it could mean collaborating with underrepresented groups and releasing limited edition collections to support them. Businesses have partnered with EcoMatcher to gift buyers a tree in their name for every purchase they make. These ideas act as an incentive to purchase, as well as a larger indicator of a brand’s values and inclinations. 

The final word

It’s pretty clear that Gen Z is determined to breathe new life into corporate sustainability and responsibility. Their behaviors have substantial implications for the market of the future because Gen Z is poised to become the largest consumer market globally. To sum this shift up in a phrase, Gen Z isn’t to be trifled with.