3 ways Millennial Americans influence corporate responsibility

By Caroline Cox in Sustainable Packaging on October 18, 2016

The way consumers interact with brands is rapidly changing. Earlier this year, Millennials officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in U.S. history. There are now more than 90 million American Millennials, defined by those born between 1981 and 2000.

As the new era of young people take a stronghold on our economy, market and culture, many industries are realizing the increasing need to adapt to appeal to their evolving clientele.

What do you need to know about how younger Americans are different from our parents’ generation?

1. Millennials are aware now more than ever that they are constantly being sold to—and they don’t like it.

Advertisements and other marketing tactics are losing their effectiveness on young consumers. In fact, most Millennials are skeptical of advertising, and only 1% are influenced by a compelling ad. Brands need to begin thinking outside the box and develop alternative strategies to win over the trust of their young and increasingly powerful consumers.

2. Millennials are more likely to value brands they perceive to enhance lives, support social causes, and demonstrate transparency and trustworthiness.

With 61% of young people feeling personally responsible to make a difference within their community or environment, they expect brands and companies to pay their fair share. In fact, 75% of younger consumersexpect brands to demonstrate social engagement and give back to society.

Plus 84% of millennials consider a brand’s public and implied values before making a purchase, and they don’t just take the company’s word for it. Young people are twice as likely than Baby Boomers to check if a brand’s corporate social responsibility claims are true and supported with specific action. Companies need to actively and publically demonstrate they are concerned about the social and environmental impacts of their products, and committed to mitigating effects where possible.

3. Millennials are experiencing less positive regard towards large companies and institutions. This growing population’s Decline of Deference makes it more difficult for companies to convince consumers that their brands demonstrate transparency and social engagement.

Skepticism of environmental marketing claims leads younger Americans to look towards third party seals and certifications on packaging to vouch for the credibility of a brand’s claims.

For example, the How2Recycle label aims to meet these demands and promote sustainability by influencing packaging design for recycling. As a third party membership-based program, How2Recycle works with industry companies to convey both overall recyclability of a package and improve the reliability, completeness and transparency of recyclability claims. How2Recycle engages with consumers by instructing them how to properly prepare a package for recycling, as well as where to go to find additional information.

How2Recycle addresses the changing demands of the growing (both in breadth and influence) Millennial population by helping to bridge the gap between company’s efforts and consumers’ suspicion. We want to foster trust, communication and a greater understanding of the materials you handle every day.

Why do Millennial expectations matter?

If brands don’t learn to adapt to the Millennial mindset, they face obsolescence. By 2018, Millennials are expected to surpass their preceding generations with $3.39 trillion in annual spending power. With this transition comes the increasing need for brands to meet the demands, expectations and interests of their transitioning consumer base. It is essential to a company’s financial security and longevity to understand and value the expectations of this social cohort, as well as appreciate the magnitude of the influence they play in the market.


Caroline Cox is project associate for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, focusing on the How2Recycle program. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and two minors in Environmental Studies and Spanish, and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech. Previously, Cox worked in marketing and management for a real estate firm, led a sustainable agriculture camp for local youth, and studied in the Ecuadorian highlands of the Andes and lowlands of the rainforest.


Photo credit: Designed by jcomp / Freepik



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A very comprehensive document Miss Cox. It is the force of nature making its work. You see, I am not an old man yet but new generation makes feel us as we were. In our time we made what we believed was important and some changes we proposed. Time is going faster now having the tools to go with it- in transforming the world. But I notice differences.Continue next post...
Continue... Millennials seem driving the Force of Change via best and massive communication. Companies will sell them what they ask for and in some way are millennials easing companies' seeing future where to look for and go. The difference is that they talk while we made- maybe wrongly, but those were the tools at hand then. The business show must go on because we all depend on it. This is key word; businesses paying its taxes. Your article is aimed to experience people in business.