Generation ESG: In the wings and craving agency to evolve your business.

Natalie Simmons, Managing Director ESG, Purpose & Sustainability

What do you get when you survey over 14,000 Gen Z and 8,000 millennials in 44 countries? The Deloitte Global 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, that’s what. And it is truly an incredible read worth your time for a number of important reasons, regardless of which generation you’re from.

The history of the idea of ‘generations’ is a fascinating one. In his New Yorker article from a couple of years ago, Pulitzer-winner Louis Menand traces the term and theory all the way back to Herodotus. I do find it interesting that, as Menand puts it – “People born within (a particular) period are supposed to carry a basket of characteristics that differentiate them from people born earlier or later.” And of course there are always exceptions, but in the world of marketing, this broad stroke is accepted, even embraced, as it allows brands to grab the middle and sell them stuff!

When it comes to the environment, sustainability, and governance, no one individual, brand or government for that matter, should ignore the insights that rigorous generational research can provide. Why? Because empathy and understanding with a particular generation is a reliable way to get your message to stick and for that message to become action.

It’s not the silver bullet. Context is the next layer to research that can help brands truly understand what a particular generation is thinking, feeling and knowing at any one time. This is where the quality of the Deloitte research truly shines. The deeper and more timely the questions, the richer and more relevant the answers. That’s the magical combination. From the report we can easily see some important trends. The upshot is that the disruptive events of the last few years have influenced the psyches of the respondents, and by extrapolation, the generation as a whole.

  • GenZ and Millennials are more satisfied with the progress companies are making on ESG policies
  • That said, their expectations are high, and they believe more can be done
  • Personal finances and concerns around the cost of living are a big issue
  • The two generations value remote and hybrid working as they rethink the role of work in their lives

It’s a rich report, and there are many areas of interest, For me, perhaps the biggest opportunity for organisations to consider is this:

“Climate change is a major concern for Gen Zs and millennials, but finances are making it harder for them to prioritise sustainability.”

We’re some days past yet another interest rate rise here in Australia. The cash rate is at 4.1% as of June 6. The papers are frothing with articles about the pain households will feel, impending economic hard landings, and the unanswered question – when will inflation start to ease?

A large percentage of the Gen Z and Millennial cohort live paycheck-to-paycheck, but there are many for whom interest rate rises really matter. How is this affecting them? Well, it’s not helping their mental health for one thing. But it’s also raising their expectations of employers to shoulder the burden too.

Sustainability plays a big role for me. An employer that is supposedly committed to it but hardly knows what to do with the topic behind the scenes has no future for me.
– Gen Z, Female, Austria

The six key takeaways for business leaders from the Deloitte report are an excellent launch point for your company to initiate or boost the momentum of your ESG strategy. The L&D modules that Prime ESG Advisory are definitely aligned with these.

  • Accelerate your ESG progress. GenZ and Millennials are your company’s future leaders. Transparently demonstrate your commitment to a sustainable future and they will not only stay, they will passionately contribute to your momentum.
  • Confront financial concerns. Even in a cost-sensitive period, organisations like yours have a responsibility to ensure the financial wellbeing of your employees.
  • Enable work/life flexibility. The mix of onsite and remote working deserves attention. Issuing broad ‘return to the office’ edicts don’t end well. Explore options for when they work too.
  • Eliminate the stigma of mental health and provide support through the business.
  • Protect your people from what the Deloitte report calls ‘non-inclusive behaviours’. Ensure that there are systems in place to identify harassment and bullying, not to mention the importance of a way for your people to easily report them.
  • Prepare for the low-carbon economy.

Reach out to our team today to discuss how we can help your organisation attract, retain, and develop the best new talent. Because what company doesn’t want their subsequent ‘generations’ of leaders to be committed to your brand’s purpose, focused on its success, and contributing to its sustainability.

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