America’s youngest generation has begun to enter the workforce, consumer market and voting booths. This is a sign that they are on a mission to improve the planet. While some companies are trying to meet Gen Z’s sustainability demands, others may just be presenting a facade.
Trinity Gbla, 19, believes sustainability is very important. Gbla, who grew up in Southern California and was subject to extreme heat and wildfires, said that climate change has become a pressing issue over the past few years. She’s not the only one concerned about climate change/protecting our environment. According to a recent survey, Gen Z’s top concern was not only climate change/protecting the environment, but also unemployment and health care/disease prevention. Deloitte survey.
Trinity Gbla is a junior at Howard University
Photo by Trinity Gbla
Gbla stated, “There’s such an enormous climate crisis happening in the world you just cannot ignore.” “When I shop, I look for ethically sourced products or products that are environmentally friendly. I value price, especially as a college student. However, I’m willing and able to pay more for quality products if they are ethically sourced.”
Gen Z is ardent about sustainable products. According to a First Insight: 2020 report73% of Gen Z consumers were willing and able to pay more for sustainable products than any other generation. They were also the youngest generation with many still in school. 54% said they would pay more for a sustainably produced product than a 10% increase.
More than 25% of Gen Zs and millennials around the world said this year that their purchasing decisions were influenced by the environmental impact of certain businesses. Gbla stated that she can already see the impact her generation is having on companies by using their purchasing power to hold them to a higher standard. Many companies have launched sustainability campaigns and highlighted green practices.
They want to work for green companies
Consumer spending is only one part of the equation. Gen Zers also want the companies they work at to be environmentally-friendly.
“We’re moving to a more sustainable economy,” Jen Cannon (Vice President of Business Development at Impax Asset Management), said. The company has assets worth $45 billion. “What’s the future for my company if I don’t address climate change?”
Refusing to address the environmental concerns of Gen Z can put a company’s future workforce at risk.
Cannon stated that “they want to have a career that’s in line their values.”
Nearly 49% of Gen Zs polled by Deloitte stated that their personal ethics played a major role in their career choices. One of them is Theo Daniels.
The 19-year old entered Howard University as a freshman in the department of computer science last year. He switched to biology and politics after that, a decision he said was motivated by his passion about the environment.
He said, “I want to do something meaningful and helpful.” “I don’t believe you can’t do that in computer sciences. It would have to be something that is environmentally related, however, it was what I felt.
Theo Daniels is a sophomore at Howard University
Photo by Natae Daniels
Daniels has a new career path and hopes to find policy solutions that hold corporations responsible for their environmental impacts. He says it would be in both the best interests of consumers and the planet.
He stated, “Being able find ways to communicate that science to policy change, to actually start the ball rolling in a right direction is something I value very much.” There is a lot to do and I would like to be part of it. I would like to do my bit to make the world a better place to be.
While brands may be adapting to their passionate consumers, it is not always the way that our generation would like. Sustainability-targeted marketing has become increasingly prevalent as companies try to appeal to the Gen Z audience, said Jennifer Schmidt, a senior partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Schmidt stated, “People are using a storyline with sustainability, low-waste, appropriate ingredients, or fabrics that you can find on their websites, packaging, and as part of marketing.” “I can’t imagine a brand not doing this right at the moment.”
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This has made shopping for environmentally-friendly clothing frustrating for Perri Russell. Russell, who is an ethical consumer and a proponent of green labels, environmental messaging, and eco-friendly labels, understands that companies can say things very differently than what they actually do.
Russell stated that “our world is overrun in advertisements and promotions, and a culture which is begging to you just consume, consume and consume.” It’s very difficult to be an ethical consumer. It takes a lot more thought, education, care, and effort.
This practice is known as “greenwashing”.
“Greenwashing” is the deceptive practice of branding a company as environmentally-friendly without adopting legitimate sustainable operations.
Jason Dorsey is a Gen Z expert and author of Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business. He said that this is a “rapidly growing” marketing trend.
“Greenwashing” is a real phenomenon that seems to be increasing in every day. “The reason is that Gen Z, now at age 25, has made it clear to us that protecting the environment is a priority. Not only as consumers, but also as employees and shareholders and voters.” he explained. “The pressure and expectations of Gen Z as trendsetters combined with a desire for “becoming more green” are not only used to cover up past acts by companies that have damaged the environment, but also to increase product prices.”
How to tell if a product really is green
Transparency can be the best way to tell the difference between a truly sustainable company and one that has just put a green label on it. Russell said that if a product is labeled green or has an eco-logan but doesn’t have the necessary information, that’s usually a sign that it’s not sustainable.
For her, it’s clear that she supports companies that clearly disclose where their ingredients come form and publish statistics and information about sourcing and manufacturing. This often means avoiding the largest retailers.
Russell stated that smaller companies are also trying to build brand loyalty. Therefore, transparency in sustainability and labor practices is a way that they bring in their sustainability-focused client base.
Gbla recommends shopping in second-hand shops whenever possible to ensure you are not contributing to the fast fashion industry, which isn’t always a good thing for the environment. She also avoids buying new products and prefers to invest in long-lasting products.
Gbla stated that sustainability means using less and being more mindful with your purchases. This is a good practice for both your finances, and for the planet.
CNBC’s “College VoicesThis series is written by CNBC interns at universities across the country and covers how they got their college education, managed their money, and launched their careers in these extraordinary times. Katie JahnsCNBC intern, working with the long-form unit. She is a rising junior studying journalism and psychology at Northwestern University. Her mentor is Nate Skid. Edited byCindy Perman.