Millennials Really Do Want To Work for Environmentally-Sustainable Companies, According to a New Survey of Large Company Employees

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Here we are in the new millennium, since 2000 or 2001 (the clear delineation of the century-break has been debated) and the generation that straddles the 20th and 21st centuries has characteristics that may be quite different for employers (and as customers, investors, voters).

The Millennial Generation has been defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as those men and women born between 1981 and 1996, who are 23-to-38 years of age in 2019. (For sure, the exact definitions of recent generations are not always in general agreement.)

This cohort succeeded the smaller-sized “Generation Xers” and the larger Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964, originally 77 million strong and two-thirds larger than the “Silents” before them).  The long-dominant Boomer population has been decreasing in total size since 2012…so what comes next for the business sector and the financial sector?

Answer:  Millennials! – and then over time the Post-Millennials, those born 1997-to-the-present day. But today’s focus is on the many impacts, strong and subtle, of the Millennials.

The Pew Research Center sees some of the defining trends for the Millennials as including experiencing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the aftermath (shes off at the airport screening); the 2008 financial crisis and the impacts of the Great Recession that followed; steadily escalating costs for higher education and healthcare and housing…and other factors that created “slow starts” for their careers and “that will be a factor for American society for decades to come.”

This is also the generation that grew up surrounded with technology and for some, the experience of transition from land-line phones to early cell phones and then on to sophisticated iPhones; and for most, the internet, the World Wide Web, and social media became the center of life, observes the Pew researchers.

So what should business leaders expect as this maturing generation – in terms of attractive to potential job applicants and for retention of Millennials already under the roof?

Fast Company, the go-to magazine for many in the generation, says corporate sustainability is a priority and most Millennials would actually take a pay cut to work at an environmentally-responsible company; 40 percent have already done so because “company sustainability”. That is higher than the answers of respondents of prior generations (below 25% for Gen Xers and 17% for parents and grandparents in the post-WW II Boomer crowd).

Millennial survey respondents (40%) said they have chosen a job because the company performed better on sustainability than other choices…something only 17% of Boomers said they had done.  As for employee retention, consider that 70% of Millennials said they would stay with a company if it had a strong sustainability plan.

Are these survey results a “blip”?  Fast Company [magazine] tells us that in 2016 a similar survey reported that 64% of Millennials said they would not take a job at a company that was not “socially responsible” — and 75% said they would take a smaller salary to work at a company more in line with their “values”.

The 2019 survey was based on conversations with 1,000 employees at large U.S. companies.  More than 70% of respondents said they would choose to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda, and a sizable number said they would take a pay cut to do so.

Today’s business leaders need to keep these attitudes in mind as this significant demographic shift is taking place.  As the huge generation of Baby Boomers continue to age out of the workplace (the oldest are 73 years of age, the youngest are now 55),

Transition:  Millennials will make up three-out-of-every-four workers in the next six years, staff writer Adele Peters tells readers.(And the Census Bureau says they are one-out-of-four of the total US population today.)

The survey was commissioned by the blockchain-based clean energy platform Swytch – another sign of the times; this is a new platform organized to track and verify the impact of sustainability efforts and action on the global level of C02 emissions using blockchain technology.

The company says that consumers reducing their energy use can win tokens.  Is this 21st Century approach to currency exchange a “blip”? Perhaps not – JPMorgan Chase recently announced its own crypto-currency and as we write this, Bitcoin values are at $4,000.

Says Swytch co-founder Evan Caron of the survey:  “From my perspective, it’s a competitive advantage for large enterprises to really align themselves with employees’ ideas about creating more environmentally-sustainable choices.”

This Week’s Top Story

Most millennials would take a pay cut to work at a environmentally responsible company
(Friday – February 15, 2019) Source: Fast Company – Nearly 40% of millennials have chosen a job because of company sustainability. Less than a quarter of gen X respondents said the same, and 17% of baby boomers.

Millennials and Sustainable / Responsible / Impact Investing — A New Force To Be Reckoned With!

We Americans are fond of putting specific age cohorts in neatly assembled descriptors — the Silent Generation; the Greatest Generation; the Baby Boom Generation; Gen X and Gen Y.

Now in focus:  The Millennial Generation, fast approaching the vaunted celebrity status of the post-WW II Baby Boom Generation.  You’ll recall The Boomers were born in years 1946 to 1964 and were some 77 million American women and men in total.  For many years this population cohort dominated trends in education, business, popular culture, entertainment, politics, investing, and other societal activities.

Now we have a new dominant force coming to leadership in those categories. The Millennials are considered to be the last generation of the 20th Century, those born between 1982 and 2004 — estimated at 76 million people, according to demographic experts Howe and Strauss.  (Time magazine puts the dates as 1980-2000; The New York Times, 1976-1990. Whatever the exact years, this is the generation that will dominate at least the first half of the 21st Century.)

Even now, the Millennials are said to be outnumbering the number of Boomers in the workforce of 2017 — they are wielding tremendous influence on “work in America.”

What about their investing and wealth building activities?  The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing has some guidance for us in the findings of their recent look at 1,000 individual active investors — the Institute’s MS Sustainable Signals survey.

Highlights:  75% of all those surveyed and 86% of the Millennial investors surveyed think of themselves as interested in sustainable investing.  The first MS Institute survey was in 2015; the findings were similar to the 2017 attitudes.  But, the 2017 survey found a significant increase in those Millennials responding as  “Very Interested”, which rose from a level of 28% two years ago to 38% in the recent survey round.

This, the Morgan Stanley Institute surmises is at least partly responsible for the spike in U.S. sustainable, responsible & impact investing between 2014 (established by US SIF survey at US$6.57 trillion in AUM) to $8.27 trillion in 2016 — a dramatic, 33% growth rate.

Audrey Choi, Chief Sustainability Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Morgan Stanley says:  “As widespread attention to sustainability continues to increase, consumers and investors alike are now more than ever factoring sustainability issues into their investment decisions.”

Note that Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing  “…works to drive scalable investment solutions that seek to deliver positive social or environmental impact alongside the market-rate returns clients expect…”
There’s a link in our Top Story to the 93-page report.

To think about:  In a commentary on TechTarget “WhatIs.com”, the author said:  “Millennials are concerned about social justice and will not support institutions that they see in conflict with social and economic equality.  As such, Millennials are exerting their influence on the world around them…”

Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing is helping to chart that effect in the capital markets.

Top Stories This Week…

Millennials Are Driving Global Sustainable Investment
(Friday – August 18, 2017)
Source: Clean Technica – A new investor survey conducted by leading global financial services company Morgan Stanley has revealed that three-quarters of investors and 86% of Millennial investors are interested in sustainable investing.