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Want to win Gen Z’s respect? Show some respect for the environment.

by Jacqi Levy
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    When it comes to sustainability, Gen Zs are hungry for change. More than any other generation, Zs expect brands to be conscious of the mark they leave on the environment.


    Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to raise awareness about environmental issues. “It’s a day to remind ourselves that we need to do something,” said Sunakshi Verma, a Penn State junior, in an interview with the Daily Collegian.

    And yet, some college students wonder if spending just one day a year focused on the environment is enough. Said Brett Hoffman, a Penn State sophomore, “I think Earth Day should be every day.”

    These sentiments are indicative of Gen Z’s growing concern for the state of the planet. To Zs, sustainability is much more than marketing hype; it’s core to everyday living—and the key to building a better future for generations that follow.

    One of the ways that Generation Z is flexing its activist muscles is with its purchasing power. For brands that want to do business with these young consumers, it’s important to understand their persistent environmental consciousness—and to keep up. Here's what you need to know.

    Gen Zs crave environmentally friendly products

    A recent UNiDAYS x Ad Age survey revealed that a whopping 82 percent of Gen Z students are more likely to buy a product if it’s environmentally friendly. And a separate study from Neilsen showed that 77 percent of Gen Zs are willing to pay more for those same environmentally friendly products, vs. just 51 percent of Baby Boomers and 66 percent of the overall population.

    For Gen Zs, knowing where and how something is made gives it social currency. This means that being a good environmental steward gives you street cred. But it also means you’ll have to do more than slap a green label on your packaging if you want to make an impression on Gen Z.

    Gen Zs care about your company’s stance on the environment

    To Gen Z, being an environmentally conscious company is more than just selling sustainable products. Zs expect your company to embrace sustainable values. According to a UNiDAYS survey, a full 93 percent of Gen Zs believe brands have an obligation to take a stand on environmental issues.


    What role can brands play in helping Gen Z shape the future? Download the report Gen Z: Preparing to Face the Future to find out.


    Digital savvy Gen Zs will do their homework. They’ll actually spend time learning about your company’s business practices to understand if they’re green. For example, are you recycling the waste output from your manufacturing processes or does your distribution fleet run on clean energy? Gen Zs won’t bury their heads in the sand; they actually want to know.

    And if the answer is not up to par, expect them to show their disapproval by voting with their wallets. Almost one third of Gen Zers have boycotted a company they perceived as following unsustainable practices.

    Gen Zs feel responsible for fixing the environmental mistakes of previous generations

    When it comes to the environment, many Gen Zers feel they need to make up for the shortcomings of previous generations. Respondents to the UNiDAYS x Ad Age survey weighed in about their sense of duty to look after the health of the planet:

    “I feel I have to fix the environment, and I am debating having children because of the effect that more people will have on the planet.”

    “We can learn from [previous generations’] mistakes and improve our mark on the environment and the world.”

    “If we don't fix [previous generations’ mistakes], then who will?...It is our job to leave the world a better place for future generations.”

    Going green for Gen Z

    As brands looking to appeal to the next generation of consumers, it may be time to reflect on our own past mistakes. Let’s get to work helping Gen Z be the environmental change they want to see in the world.

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