Generation Y, those born about 1977 to 1998, were born to those to began the environmentalist movement. Growing up in a time when environmental conscientiousness was the norm, they are familiar with, and often have strong feelings for, environmental responsibility and sustainable business practices. For the most part, their parents, the Baby Boomers, have taken the lead in the eco-economy, sustainable business, but Generation Y is starting to take the lead.
Of course, it is one thing to affirm that Generation Y teenagers were “for” sustainability, but they lacked the resources to influence sustainable business practices. Eventually, though, these strong-willed teens grew up, entered the workforce, started families of its own, and can now “put their money where their mouth is.” Generation Y has spoken, and now, is starting to take the forefront of the sustainable economy.
According to surveys completed in 2009, 31% of Generation Y adults bought “as many green/eco-friendly products as they could,” and 27% bought organic personal care products, such as shampoos or soaps. When the study was redone in 2012, Generation Y purchases of green products jumped to 36% and organic personal care products jumped to 39%. In spite of the fact that organic and green products are typically more expensive, these increases took place during a significant downturn in the American economy.
Business leaders ought to pay attention, as Generation Y isn’t interested in merely a sustainable sideline, but in sustainable businesses as a whole. Sustainable business models will have to meet the high expectations of their new clientele, not only in being eco-friendly, but offering products that make no compromise between sustainability and performance. Generation Y won’t accept less, and companies that can offer both will have the advantage.