Millennials are universally more engaged in corporate social responsibility efforts, according to the new 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, which reveals that more than nine-in-10 Millennials say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91 percent vs. 85 percent US average) and two-thirds say they use social media to engage around CSR (66 percent vs. 53 percent US average).

“This research reiterates the significant differences in how gender, life-stage and income level impact how Millennials want to be engaged in CSR efforts,” says Lisa Manley, executive vice president, CSR strategy, at Cone. “With different priorities and drivers, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ message won’t inspire mass action within this generation.

“To appeal to a diverse Millennial audience, businesses need to understand the unique drivers and preferences of each segment to tailor their content, communications and channels for greatest impact.”

Millennials are more fervent in their support of corporate social and environmental efforts and are more likely to say they would participate in CSR initiatives if given the opportunity. They claim they are more willing to:

  • Purchase a product with a social or environmental benefit (87 percent vs. 83 percent US average)
  • Tell friends and family about CSR efforts (82 percent vs. 72 percent)
  • Voice opinions to a company about its CSR efforts (70 percent vs. 60 percent)
  • Volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust (74 percent vs. 56 percent).

At the same time, Millennials say they are prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about, whether that’s paying more for a product (70 percent vs. 66 percent US average), sharing products rather than buying (66 percent vs. 56 percent) or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company (62 percent vs. 56 percent).

Millennials, as digital natives, believe social media can be their megaphone to make an impact on issues they care about. This group is far more likely to use social media to address or engage with companies around social and environmental issues (66 percent vs. 53 percent). And while most Millennials turn to social channels to share and learn, there is also a portion that uses this medium as an avenue to participate in a direct dialogue with companies or contribute to CSR efforts:

  • 38 percent share positive information about companies and issues they care about (vs. 30 percent US average)
  • 33 percent learn more about specific companies and issues (vs. 27 percent)
  • 26 percent share negative information about companies and issues they care about (vs. 21 percent)
  • 18 percent directly communicate with companies around issues (vs. 14 percent)
  • 17 percent contribute directly to an effort led by a company (vs. 12 percent).

 “Millennials have come of age, into the shopping aisles and the workplace,” says Manley. “This hyper-connected generation is consuming media at an unprecedented pace. With social and environmental issues constantly in their social media feeds and inboxes, they simply can’t ignore how their decisions impact the world around them.”

Engaging Millennials in CSR efforts can trigger a positive advantage to company reputation and bottom-line. Millennials want companies to tell them how they are striving to improve the world around them and more than nine-in-10 (93 percent) feel better about companies upon learning of those efforts. However, companies must reach Millennials with the right content via the preferred mix of communications channels.

Although Millennials still look to the product package as a valuable resource for CSR information (19 percent vs. 18 percent US average), they are more likely to utilize social media than the average American (18 percent vs. 12 percent) and less likely to see advertising (11 percent vs. 17 percent) as effective. And Millennials want to be entertained and engaged with CSR content; they prioritizes videos (36 percent vs. 29 percent), infographics (26 percent vs. 16 percent) and games (15 percent vs. 8 percent) when learning about company CSR commitments.