Gen Z Pressuring Businesses To Focus on a Greener Future

Gen Z calls time on irresponsible profit making, with 50% claiming cancel culture as a ‘necessity’.


Gen Z Makes Businesses Accountable

New research shows that Gen Z increasingly believe that businesses have a responsibility to help create a better world, and they are prepared to use ‘cancel culture’ against those businesses that ignore that responsibility. Nearly one fifth have boycotted a brand, product or retail chain.

In a poll of 1,000 Gen Z respondents aged 16-20, 73% surveyed think businesses need to shoulder this responsibility, up from 67%, while 71% want ‘doing good’ to be central to business. The research tracked trends in Gen Z’s attitudes, following up on previous research carried out with respondents of the same age six years ago.

Gen Z has a sophisticated view on the balance between economic, social and environmental considerations. They prefer to give their custom to businesses who are living their values and do not see a conflict with a company doing well by doing good, with an increasing number (64%, up from 57%) happy to see purpose-led businesses make a profit out of making the world a better place.


Increased Focus On Peer Sustainbility

Gen Z is critical of their own generation’s response to sustainability issues, with 73% thinking their peers ignore sustainability concerns when shopping online and 72% believing they are overly influenced by celebrities.  50% of Gen Z believe that cancel culture is necessary to decrease support for unethical businesses, and are disparaging of brands and celebrities seen to be ‘green-washing’, or jumping on the bandwagon, rather than being authentic.

Females have higher expectations of the businesses they support, with 77% thinking businesses have a responsibility to do good, compared to 68% of males. Sustainable brands stand out more to Gen Z females, with 41% buying more sustainable alternatives of products compared to 24% of males.

The poll identified the most important issues for Gen Z as social issues and those relating to human rights – such as the availability of water and sanitation worldwide, healthcare and education for everyone, and eradicating world hunger – still ranking as more important than tackling climate change, even post-COP 26.

Andy Last, CEO of Mullenlowe salt comments:

“Gen Z are giving a clear ultimatum to businesses, that they risk being cancelled unless they live up to their social and environmental responsibilities.  But this generation are also increasingly clear that they’re happy for businesses to make money out of doing good. Indeed, they prefer to work for and earn salaries from companies that help to make a better world.  Purpose and profit are not incompatible and given how important we know issues around climate change and social equity are to future generations, the businesses that navigate these most effectively are the ones that will earn their trust.”

Research was commissioned to coincide with the launch of the book Business on a Mission: How To Build a Sustainable Brand by Andy Last, published by Routledge, 20th January 2022.