Millennials are known for a lot of things, some better than others: Disrupting just about every industry, obsessing over avocados, a sense of entitlement, an addiction to technology, to name a few. But something they generally aren’t given enough credit for? Caring — like really caring about people and things other than themselves.

More so than previous generations, millennials are driven by purpose and feel an inherent obligation to make a difference in the world and leave it better than how they found it.

With topics like sustainability, accessibility, and economic mobility top-of-mind, millennials are now, more than ever, laser-focused on how companies are using their influence for social good.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an evolving business practice that incorporates sustainable development into an organization’s business model. In other words, it means companies conduct business and have activities that usually benefit social, economic, and environmental factors.

Over the years, CSR has expanded from annual service days and one-off donation drives to something that’s become deeply embedded within a company’s culture and operations. And millennials can take much of the credit for this.

In today’s changing times, it’s imperative for businesses to be charitable and socially conscious.

Brands like TOMS and Warby Parker were founded on a one-for-one business model that automatically gives back to those in need with every purchase. Other brands, such as Airbnb and Yoplait, have sponsored ad campaigns to raise awareness for specific social issues like gender inequality and racism. Here at Ally, we focus our efforts on improving economic mobility in local communities, fostering diversity and inclusion in our workplace, and living by our mantra “Do It Right.”

When social impact is at the root of what a company does, any and all efforts to give back go a long way with millennials. 

Why do millennials care so much?

Perhaps social media acts as a catalyst for social good by influencing millennials with positive peer pressure, or maybe it’s simply the way this generation was raised.

Regardless of the motive, millennials want to make a difference. They have a burning desire to create change by supporting — and working for — businesses with a goal of positively impacting society.

According to a Fortune/NP Strategy poll, 80% of young people ages 25 to 34 say they want to work for “engaged companies,” meaning companies that are actively giving back.

Because millennials are so big on work-life balance, they want to feel good about where they spend a good chunk of their week. The Millennial Impact Report uncovers that 94% of young adults prefer to use their skills to benefit a cause, which goes to show that social impact is not just a want — but a need — for millennials to be satisfied with their employers.

When it comes to making purchases, this generation takes a magnifying glass to a company’s ethics and values before filling a shopping cart. Millennials investigate, for example, if beauty brands are cruelty-free or if clothing lines are designed with sustainable fabric. Does this restaurant support causes that align with its customers’ beliefs? Is that retailer taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint?

All of these things are starting to factor into millennials’ decisions on whether or not to buy something.

The future of corporate social responsibility

It’s no longer enough for a company to make a good product or offer great service. Millennials are pushing companies to be better, specifically when it comes to social impact.

Facing the risks of losing employees and potential sales, businesses are making changes to their business models not just to appease their customers, but to truly bring about change.

This collective mindset to positively impact the world has the potential to truly make a difference. And for that, we can thank millennials.

Learn more about how we’re sparking positive change.

Discussion questions:

  • How important is a company’s social impact work?
  • Do you actively seek out businesses that do good?
  • Would you avoid making a purchase from a business that doesn’t support sustainability practices?