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Millennials Look to ‘Business’ to Solve World’s Greatest Problems

Our Global Research Findings on Millennials: New ‘Social Contract’ Emerges as Millennials Look Beyond Government for Collaborative, Action-oriented Solutions

Paris, September 16, 2014-- A 17-country study of millennials’ views on citizenship and the role of business has revealed sentiments starkly different from those of preceding generations.  Governments around the world are distrusted for their ability to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges alone.  By contrast, the increasing involvement of big business is seen as a key factor for success.  Overall, 73% of the 8000 millennials surveyed worldwide felt that government can’t solve societal issues by themselves, and 83 per cent want to see corporations actively involved.

Commenting on the landmark study, “The Future of Business Citizenship,” Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer for MSLGROUP explained that millennials -- the largest, most diverse and influential generation to date -- are “game changers” in their expectations of  business with distinct ideas on how companies should behave.  He said,“The overwhelming majority of millennials believe corporate involvement in tackling issues such as economy, health and environment is a key factor to build a successful outcome. Millennials look to businesses not only to lead, but to actively engage them in the process. This opens ups huge opportunities for businesses worldwide to re-set in the face of declining consumer trust. ”

An analysis of the study findings revealed four emerging themes that are shaping tomorrow’s field of ‘Business Citizenship:’



Implications for Business

New Mindset: What vs. Why

Millennials believe what companies actually do is more meaningful than why they do it.  This is an evolution from even the recent past when it was enough for business to have a clearly thought out ‘purpose’ at their core.  Today millennials in most countries expect companies to be active citizens, game-changers.

  • Mobilize your resources to implement a plan you can clearly articulate and promote.
  • Invite people to participate and publicize the results.
  • Do more than give money; encourage people to become advocates.

New Focus: Micro vs. Macro

Much previous research into what issues millennials care about has highlighted macro issues such as health, the economy and sustainability.  Millennials questioned in MSLGROUP’s study say it’s not that simple: they care about specific micro issues.  Globally, inflation and high prices came out top of the list of concerns, followed by environmental pollution, having enough money to live right and pay the bills, healthcare costs and recession.

  • Pick something small, tangible and measurable.
  • Change it for the better, then repeat. 
  • Focus on specific actions where your core competencies as a business can help drive greater impact.
New Priority: Impact vs. Ego

Contrary to the myth that Millennials are self-absorbed, respondents are happy to set personal interests aside, and support companies and brands in whatever areas they can make a difference.  To illustrate this point, inflation and high prices are Millennials’ top concerns. However, when asked where they want business to focus their efforts, globally they ranked this issue #28. Their third, fourth and fifth highest concerns (having enough money to live right, healthcare costs and recession/unemployment, respectively) fall far down in the rankings of where they expect businesses to put their resources. Their choices for business are instead quite pragmatic, and include protecting the environment, sustainability of the planet and, as noted, environmental pollution.

  • Separate what Millennials care about and what business should focus on.
  • Find a cause or issue relevant to your industry, that you really understand and are sure you can affect.
New Contract: We vs. You

Millennials believe business has a responsibility to help solve the world’s problems, but they don’t expect them to do it alone. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they want to personally get involved in making the world a better place.  Vocal in their opinions of what companies are doing and not doing, the more millennials believe their voices will be heard, the greater their involvement will be. Sixty-nine percent want companies and employers to make it easier for them to do their part, such as donating a portion of product proceeds to causes they care about, giving them time off to volunteer and providing activities they can participate in.

  • Provide plenty of opportunities for people to join in.
  • Make it as easy as possible for them to really make a difference.
  • Go where they already are across social platforms and channels to engage most effectively.

Scott Beaudoin, global director of MSLGROUP’s Corporate and Brand Citizenship practice, commented, “By 2018, millennials’ earnings and spending power are projected to outpace those of baby boomers – little surprise that marketers are obsessed with them. The study findings demonstrate a clear path for corporations looking to engage with this influential generation: Business Citizenship is the new platform on which strong consumer, employer and stakeholder relationships can be established and built.”

About ‘The Future of Business Citizenship’

In spring 2014, MSLGROUP teamed with Research Now to interview 8,000 millennials in 17 countries. Our purpose was to examine and understand what citizenship and the role of business in citizenship means to this influential group born between 1977 to 1994.  Approximately 500 millennials in each of the following countries completed the 15-minute survey: US, UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Hong Kong, China, India, Singapore, Japan, Canada, Brazil and Mexico.