BY: TYLER FYFE
This generation is twice as likely to buy from companies who choose to positively impact society than from companies whose spines develop scoliosis as they bow to The Dollar. According to two separate studies, Millennials are more likely to seek out authentic social mandates than to be baited by glossy advertisements or labels. When Baby Boomers said that Millennials were entitled they had the right idea of determination, but arrived at entirely the wrong conclusion—Millennials aren’t entitled, they are mission-driven.
2015 was a landmark year that saw allegedly “lazy” Millennials use their spending power to influence politics and the economy rather than be victims of it. The Modern Slavery Act was passed requiring all UK firms to prove they have no connections to slave labour. Climate deniers lost the war on sustainable policy at COP 21, their tears theoretically cooling the planet momentarily. And last, but not least, Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton slumped in sales, which deserves celebration because there are few things as repulsive as a person flaunting the fact that their handbag is worth double the threshold of the poverty line for a four-person American family.
But this was just a tremor before a double digit magnitude earthquake rocks the foundation of greed and sends beady-eyed billionaires flying through the panoramic windows of their corner offices. Ninety two million Millennials, the largest generation in US history, have a purchasing power of anywhere between $200 billion and $890 billion annually. And we do not see ourselves as salivating consumers. We see ourselves a drivers of culture in the globalized world. Where as Baby Boomers are overwhelmingly concerned with their own financial security, when asked to name the greatest civic issue, according to 2015 research, over one quarter of Millennials said equal rights and equal pay should take priority. Nineteen percent said environmental sustainability should take priority.The $6.57 trillion worth of sustainable investments currently under US management will only mushroom as the burden of student debt boils off.
Millennials are less likely to associate excess with happiness. We have either experienced the guilt and alienation of excess or the nail-scraping struggle of shortage. We have watched a waist trainer wrap around the middle class until it became an hourglass economy. We have at our fingertips the history lessons to know that pinhole focus on profitability always comes at the cost of equality and sustainability. So we will choose stakeholders over shareholders every time.
So when Generation X researcher Jean Twenge popularized the idea that our generation is narcissistic, she was misinterpreting our intrinsic motivations, things like self-acceptance, autonomy and community ties, by viewing them through her own neoliberal attitude.
Because we do not care about politics less than previous generations. Millennials just define politics differently, beyond the immediacy of the political race to the looming social and environmental problems electoral politics is slow to address. We are not just individuals. We are a network of individuals.
Power has migrated from politics to private enterprise. And we are Digital Natives—it takes only a five minute Google search to understand that there is a feedback loop between those who buy and those who sell. We want companies that treat their employees with respect. We want companies that treat their customers with respect. We want companies that treat the broader community with respect. We want companies that treat the earth with respect. And as Digital Natives, we can and we will hold accountable companies who choose profit over purpose with the same weapon that they themselves use against society—apathy.