A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that only 32 percent of American millennials (also known as "Generation Y," those born after 1980) see themselves as environmentalists. This is in stark contrast to 42 percent of Americans born between 1965 and 1980 and 44 percent of those born after 1945.
Given what is known about the generation’s attitudes, it is likely that millennials simply reject the label of "environmentalist," not that they care less for the environment. On the contrary: 2011 Pew survey had found that Gen Yers were more supportive of stricter environmental laws, more likely to attribute global warming to human activity, and more likely to favor environmentally friendly policies such as green energy development and tax incentives for hybrid vehicles. Other characteristics of these young adults, according to various studies, include:
- They are most likely to pay more for responsibly made products
- Roughly 80 percent want to work for companies that care about their impacts
- Many of them are choosing buses and bikes over cars.
For a millennial’s perspective, hear Teens Turning Green co-founder Erin Schrode’s presentation from SB ‘11.
Some of the other findings of the Pew report were that 50 percent of this generation describe themselves as political independents even though they are more likely to vote Democratic; 29 percent say that they are not affiliated with any religion; and 51 percent described themselves as supporters of gay rights; they are also the most racially diverse generation (43 percent of adults are non-white), the best educated generation (a third of them possess a college degree or more) and are the 'digital natives,' with 81 percent of them having a Facebook presence with a median of 250 friends.
As such, it stands to reason that sustainability communications from companies such as Coke, Unilever, Levi’s and AT&T resonate strongly with social media-savvy millennials (“environmentalists” or not), as these and the rest of the Top 10 companies on this year’s Social Media Sustainability Index made the list for their success at bringing sustainability into the mainstream by winning over consumers, customers and their own employees with stories about products and services that are useful, interesting and relevant.