How Millennials Changed the Business Landscape into Movements for Sustainability and Social Awareness

BY: ON MONDAY, JUNE 03, 2019

The second decade into 2000 saw a shift in culture and values among the general public, influencing much of today’s more politically-correct views and progressive stances. While each generation has its idealists, millennials are the ones moving forward in noticeably larger steps to bring ideals to life. This shift is felt down to the foundation of how things and business were done.

So much has changed in the last ten years. People have veered away from stagnation and have started noticing important issues bigger than themselves, including the change that needs to happen immediately. The call for change did not only affect the way we live, but also affected the way businesses did things. Sustainability and socio-civic responsibility are becoming the core of new businesses while established businesses began evaluating their missions based on these.

Millennials and the Power They Wield

Do millennials and the generations that follow them have enough purchasing power to make a difference? They have always been touted as broke trophy kids that rely on mommy and daddy’s money. One must remember that millennials are made up of at least three age groups, spanning 15 years, who are at different stages of their lives. While some are still in college, others are starting to build careers, with the more mature millennials already past the formative years of their careers.

It might be easy to dismiss millennials, but in the next two to five years, their purchasing power will expand dramatically. They have been creating industries and businesses for themselves that only their generation can fill in. A global market research led to positive statistics and a forecast that by next year, millennials in the US alone will have spent $1.4 trillion by 2020.

Informed Choices and Positive Influences

While millennials are also smarter shoppers who compare prices and make more informed decisions for small and large purchases, they can easily turn down tempting offers if it they’re not from a company that “does right” by people. research even shows that their political and social views affect their financial attitude. Their generation is the most educated to date and the first to utilize social media as a platform to share, send, and inform.

Think of an issue, any issue, and you will find hundreds of different voices speaking about it with their own opinions and stories. They are usually the first to speak out on injustices and give praise where it is due. New York Times declared them as Generation Nice.

While social media shows a different story and encourages consumerism among certain demographics, millennials are actually more focused on social change than on materialism. They were exposed early to real time news about climate change and species extinction, terrorism, war, poverty, homelessness, racism, and recession. Real issues were given faces and humanized by access to the internet and media. This is the real reason why their generation is empathetic and values people and brands with the same views.

Small, Bold Moves Make Big Waves

What does this mean for brands, corporations, and small to medium-sized enterprises? With a spotlight that is easier to maneuver, companies are more careful with their stance on certain issues. Marketing and public relations have never been trickier.

Endorsers now align themselves with companies that exhibit better values and have the power to turn down or chase after deals. Companies on the other hand cannot just pick a pretty face or prominent figure to represent them. Relatability and conscience are not currency in brand positioning.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. Pepsi faced backlash with Kendall Jenner on their ad, offering a can of Pepsi to appease angry protestors. It was not meant to be offensive. Real-life protestors were rubbed the wrong way when it seemed that their advocacies and efforts were belittled. The public felt that the ad ignored the harsh reality of racial profiling and police brutality. Pepsi’s choice of Kendall Jenner, a white woman from a privileged but notorious background, also did more harm than good.

Colin Kaepernick used his position as a quarterback in the NFL to silently protest and honor people of color who are often victims of brutality and racism by kneeling during the National Anthem. Many Americans saw this act as an affront to patriotism and American soldiers. They say it was an act of rebellion and disrespect. Things went as far as the NFL forcing Kaepernick’s team to drop him.

In a bold and controversial move, Nike swiftly picked Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary ad campaign. This caused two polarizing views on the whole company. Nike also previously dropped Manny Pacquiao from their roster of their endorsers due to his anti-gay remarks. Many applauded Nike for taking a stance on important issues while others proclaimed boycott. Despite these, Nike reached an all-time high on sales and stock prices.

More millennials are choosing electric cars and second-hand cars from Japanese brands like Toyota and Honda versus muscle cars and European brands. Fuel efficiency, less emissions, reliability, and lower maintenance costs are some of the top reasons why the switch from Western cars to Asian cars have been increasing. This decision was also influenced by financially smarter parents who lived through the 70s to recognize that Japanese brands are the standard in car quality.

About the Author

Emily Snell

Emily is a contributing marketing author at where she regularly consults on content strategy and overall topic focus. Emily has spent the last 12 years helping hyper growth startups and well-known brands create content that positions products and services as the solution to a customer’s problem. To contact Emily about writing opportunities, her email is

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