I wear two hats. The one is business and increasing my shareholder’s value; the other is social responsibility.” –Guler Sabanci
As a budding entrepreneur, I have the opportunity to build social responsibility into my business during the planning stages. Having the ethical standards to attract socially conscious consumers is beginning to be an imperative for business as usual. The largest generation of consumers since the baby boom are coming of age, getting jobs, and spending their money on the products and services that support things they care about. And despite the word on the street, Millennials actually do care about a lot of things. They are the largest generation of college educated consumers, and therefore, their purchases are colored through the lens of liberal education, which among other concepts, promotes social conscience and environmental stewardship.
In Steven Schussler’s book, It’s a Jungle in There, he presents several examples of giving back through his businesses. Schussler is firmly in the baby boomer generation, and would have been instituting socially responsible practices in business during the turmoil of the sixties and seventies. It was during this time frame that corporate social responsibility as a policy was being identified and created. Since then, the younger generations have witnessed oil spills, foreign labor misconduct, and other atrocities at the hands of corporations who claim to be socially responsible. Therefore, the Millennials, educated and infused with strong principles of stewardship, are now demanding accountability and transparency in their products. Corporations are only just beginning to understand this new kind of consumer.
“Corporate social responsibility can build brand loyalty, raise awareness, and strengthen reputations, or it can have the opposite effect. Honesty is key. Inherently skeptical, Millennials will punish companies on social media not deemed to be fully transparent as well as those that pay lip service to CSR and causes important to them.The bottom line is that the corporate world cannot ignore the demands and expectations of Millennials, who are devout in their desire to associate with companies aligned with their values”
-Ryan Rudominer, Corporate Social responsibility: Ignore Millenials at Your Peril
It is important to note that Millennials are not quite at their peak buying power. This gives corporations, small businesses, and new entrepreneurs a brief window to bring their company social responsibilities up to speed. Companies already in business have a huge hurdle in accessing these new and powerful consumers, and will need to spend considerable resources to change their company dynamics. Entrepreneurs, in contrast, are at a great advantage because we have the foresight to build these policies into our business plans. We can also research and reflect on the impact this generation will have on our future business success. To ignore corporate social responsibility is to alienate the demands of largest upcoming consumer in history.