A Message from Millennials: It’s All About Social Responsibility

By Karen Kwiatek

If you are unfamiliar with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), now is the time to learn. Social responsibility in the private sector has grown rapidly over the past 50 years.  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) defines CSR as “[T]he continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large” (2015). Today, CSR is pervasive in the consciences of corporate professionals, responding to the ever-increasing demands by millennials seeking to work for ethical and responsible businesses. Many companies are enthusiastically building up their CSR by reducing their carbon footprint, donating to a charity, and promoting equality or improving labor conditions in their company.

Importantly, CSR programs are seen as a profit-booster.  That is, the consumer’s desire to spend their money on products and companies that generate positive social change has spiked. Andrew Swinland, co-founder of Frequency540, is a prominent advocate for the CSR industry. He stated, “(Millennials) are coming of age professionally nearly at the same time as the baby boomer population starts shrinking, and they are very attuned to social issues and their relationships to their favorite brands” (2014). Millennials are much more likely to associate themselves as social activists and utilize technology and social media to voice their causes as well as promote socially responsible products. “70% [of millennials] said they are more likely to purchase a product from a company that supports good causes while offering fair prices over a company offering deep discounts but no support for causes” (Eldelman, 2010). Further, a whopping  69% claimed they would not work for a company that is not socially responsible (McGlone & Spain, 197). Even John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, created a $50 million Blue Water Project aimed at protecting freshwater claiming that, ““Employees and customers want to work with a company that they respect.” Taft believes that, instead of the for-profit “tunnel vision” that many companies traditionally adopted, the corporate world is beginning to sell itself to employees and customers through its CSR programs. Put simply, it’s the non-profit values of companies that are attracting and retaining the younger workforce as opposed to shiny salaries.

A wealth of research studies paint a picture of the millennial generation as believing they are not only individually accountable for making a difference: so is big business. Swinland’s business has allowed him to understand that millennials are making noise against short-term CSR projects which lack authenticity and smell of a quick fix for a public relations blunder. Instead, they seek sustainable initiatives which engage the community in order to create a new cycle of positive social and environmental change. Gone are the days in which businesses could exploit resources for purely personal gain without question or ridicule: this is a generation that is demanding ethical behavior to be balanced with profit. Truly, CSR is becoming a vital organ to companies’ wealth creation as well as sustainability.

Millennials are coming of age in a time of unprecedented technological growth and environmental degradation. The prevalence of issues such as climate change and societal inequality have driven many millennials to demand change from their employers, government, and themselves. Given that the millennial population is projected to exceed that of the Baby Boomers, it is imperative that businesses adapt their corporate culture in order to stay relevant and competitive. Integrating CSR policies into one’s business is perhaps the most effective way for business to increase their profit margins and retain employees, all while improving the lives of their consumers and the planet.  

UniversalGiving (UG) is at the forefront of this movement and is creating innovative social responsibility services for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Here you can find a wealth of CSR information and opportunities that UG provides.

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