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Study: Millennials Are Strongest CSR Supporters in U.S.

Image Credit: Cone Communications

Millennials are universally more engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, according to new research from Cone Communications. This includes everything from buying products associated with a cause they care about to using their online networks to amplify social and environmental messages.

The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study reveals that more than nine-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).

The study examines the unique attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of different Millennial segments, including the young Millennial, mature Millennial, Millennial female, Millennial male, affluent Millennial and Millennial mom.

Millennials are more fervent in their support of corporate social and environmental efforts and are, above and beyond, more likely to say they would participate in CSR initiatives if given the opportunity, the report says. They are more willing to purchase a product with a social or environmental benefit; tell friends and family about CSR efforts; voice opinions to a company about its CSR efforts; and volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust.

Interestingly, Millennials also are prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about, the research says, whether that’s paying more for a product, sharing products rather than buying or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company.

Engaging Millennials in CSR efforts can trigger a positive advantage 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 93 percent feel better about companies upon learning of those efforts. However, companies must reach Millennials with the right content via the preferred mix of communications channels.

Traditional communications channels are less effective with this demographic, the research finds. Rather, engaging them on social media with quality and entertaining CSR messaging is key.

But there is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy for communicating effectively to Millennials. The research reveals marked nuances among age groups, gender, income and life stage. It’s important to hyper-target specific Millennial segments with the preferred type of CSR content, in the most effective communications channel with the desired call-to-action.

This is the latest in a long line of research focused on figuring out how to market to Millennials. Although this demographic’s behavior suggests they are more eco-conscience, a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 32 percent of American Millennials see themselves as environmentalists. This is in stark contrast to 42 percent of Americans born between 1965 and 1980 and 44 percent of those born after 1945.

There is an overall trend that U.S. consumers are shifting to environmentalism in their purchasing decisions. A recent survey suggests consumers are largely unaware of the severity of global resource scarcity, but their choice of packaging would be impacted if they had readily available information on how renewable materials mitigate climate change.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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