Young people, especially women and people of color, are prepared to work hard to create a more sustainable planet — and they expect brands to join them. A new study identifies the most effective ways for brands to enhance their communications with these important groups.
The next generation has spoken. Young people, women and people of color expect brands to become part of the climate change solution — in significantly higher numbers than the general population. These are tomorrow’s leaders — and the groups most impacted by climate change — and they are eager to do their part.
A forthcoming omnibus survey conducted by WE Communications and YouGov in September 2022 reveals young people are hungry for actionable information about their own impact and the impact of their favorite brands; and they are looking to develop the skills to create a more sustainable world. The new research identifies the most effective ways for brands to enhance their communications with these important groups:
1. Fill the information void
Many organizations are dedicating significant resources toward sustainability and net-zero-emissions plans. They are partnering with local and national governments so that the transition to a more sustainable future is fair to everyone — from workers on the factory floor to citizens of island nations. Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of this work. WE’s research found that 70 percent of US respondents don’t know if the company they work for has made sustainability commitments; and 76 percent don’t know if their company has a dedicated sustainability leader who tracks progress toward those goals.
It’s particularly important for brands to share their progress with young women and young people of color — our research finds they are the most deeply engaged on this issue and trust organizations committing to solid goals and sharing their progress on a regular basis.
To communicate with this group, a robust social media strategy is essential: 77 percent of Gen Z and 72 percent of millennials turn to social media for news and information at least once a week, according to Statista. This can be a challenge for brands, because social media favors fun over facts — a misinformed TikTok can quickly overlay a meticulously researched placement on CNN. That’s why brands must work to tell their own story, using their own channels, in a way that is both engaging and accurate.
2. Feed the hunger for knowledge
Most people understand that we must take significant action to fight climate change — 59 percent of US adults say it’s a high priority. But the people who will have to live with the outcomes of our action, or inaction, are significantly more engaged: 67 percent of young people say this is a top concern. In fact, their concerns about climate change are so strong that psychologists have coined the term, “eco-anxiety,” and a growing number of universities are offering students counseling related to climate stress.
Our research finds that young women of color and highly educated women are particularly focused on this issue. More than other groups, they say their awareness of how their choices impact the environment is increasing; and they expect brands to hold themselves to the same high standards. For example, 69 percent of Gen Z women of color say that brands have a significant role to play in addressing climate change issues, compared with 56 percent of US adults overall.
These groups are craving information and knowledge. They want to learn more about the environmental impact of their own choices — food choices, purchasing decisions, leisure time, tech. They want to know how they can influence environmental policies that affect their communities. For brands, there is a great opportunity to engage and partner with these groups to help them make better choices — and to prove they’re keeping their end of the bargain.
3. Go from STEM to STEMS
For the past two decades, we’ve seen a strong push in the public and private sector to enhance K-12 education in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — so that young people will have the skills to succeed and contribute. Now we must add “sustainability” — STEMS is the new STEM. Young people, particularly young women of color, are significantly more likely than the general population to say their interest in working in a job related to sustainability is increasing.
What’s more, young people — especially young people of color — see these opportunities. Unlike older generations, the majority of young people in the US are aware that there are more ‘green’ jobs available than there are people to fill them. That’s why our survey respondents support skills training for green jobs in high school. By investing in these fields and connecting with students before they enter the workforce — via science fairs, college visits, workshops, etc — brands can build a strong talent pipeline and partner with these future leaders.
WE’s research delivers great news: The leaders of tomorrow are highly engaged on sustainability, and they are committed to doing tangible and substantive work to create a better world for everyone. Brands have a significant opportunity to partner with these important stakeholders and make that brighter future a reality.
The WE Communications-YouGov omnibus survey was conducted Sept. 14-16, 2022. Total sample size was 2,462 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).