Millennials as Ethical Consumers

Civic-mindedness is a global phenomenon among millennials. But their ethical consumerism is culturally relative: ethical purchasing patterns are shaped by their own values and beliefs. Millennials, that elusive demographic who are disrupting consumption practices, share one thing that the baby boomers, gen x and gen y do not universally have: civic mindedness. Globally, millennials deem it important to proactively make strides towards making the world a better, more socially connected place. More than any other group, they consider themselves more loyal to their friends, family and community than to business. And they espouse a social and environmental consciousness. “Millennials are characterized by their social, cultural, and environmental consciousness, and loyalty to family, friends, communities, and self rather than to corporate entities” Jennifer Harris​ Civic Mindedness means Ethical Consumerism This civic mindedness manifests most prominently in their consumption practices. A global poll by Neilson uncovered that 73% of millennials are willing to spend more money on a product if it is sustainable. That’s huge: almost three quarters of young adults globally will pay more for a product if it has a positive impact on an environmental, social or economic issue.

As they mature into a fully formed consumer group, millennials are quickly becoming the world’s largest spender, outstripping the purchasing power of the older generations. So, if they want products to be ethical, your product had better be ethical!

Ethical Products Sell Better

According to a study by Business Ethicists at Sydney University ethical consumerism plays a key role in purchasing decisions among millennials. And a direct correlation has been found between ethical engagement and consumption of ethical products. As awareness of and engagement with morally positive products increases, millennials’ motivation to consume ethically also increases.

Take note of that word – awareness.

It’s not enough that your product is doing good, people need to know about it as well! Promoting your product’s positive contribution to society will get Millennials more engaged: which will lead exponentially to more and more positive consumption of the product. Marketing the ethical value of your product to millennials is of inescapable importance and must be woven into your marketing strategies.

Culure Matters in Choosing Concerns But what this study also shows us is the importance of knowing which social issues the millennials in your target market are interested in. Worldwide, millennials are not a homogenous group with shared values, beliefs and causes to care for. Rather, engagement in a subject is dictated by cultural differences as well as income, geographic location and gender. Australian millennials for example, are less likely to engage in local issues than environmental ones as their engagement spikes. It is crucial to understand the cultural and social factors that shape the ethical consumption decisions of millennials. “How do they consume and why?” needs to be asked in order to ascertain their potential engagement in an ethical product. Your product may have a great impact on the local economy, for instance, but if this is not a major concern for your millennial customers, it won’t make them buy your product more. Selling to Millennials, then, is not as simple as providing the best product; it also has to be ethical. Millennials expect products to appeal to their civic-mindedness and make them a better person. What’s more, the more they know about the ethical contribution of your product, the more likely they are to buy it. But only if it aligns with their pre-existing ethical concerns and fits in with their own ethical self-image. To ensure a product aligns with your target millennials’ ethical considerations, it is imperative to seek well-informed insights into their beliefs, values and concerns.