Meaningful Purpose: How Sustainability Attracts Millennials
I was in the seventh grade when Al Gore’s controversial documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, captivated audiences and exposed the devastating causes and effects of global warming. I remember no fewer than three of my teachers rolling the projector into class so that we could watch it.
The documentary opened our eyes to the horrors that lurked in pollution and consumption, and inspired a classroom of impressionable twelve-year-olds to adopt the few sustainable practices available to them. The message it delivered – an exciting, galvanizing call to action – resonated in many of my peers and me.
I distinctly recall feeling a sudden passion for environmentalism, though my grasp on the concept then was naturally hazy and loose. This passion has grown with me over the last decade, and remains with me to this day.
The values revolution
The fact is I am not alone: my generation of millennials has grown up with an acute awareness of environmental issues as the threat of global warming produces tangible effects. The consequences of climate change are catching up to us: melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and even a sickly Great Barrier Reef. It just takes one Google search of “millennials + sustainability” to conjure headlines about the remarkable interest this generation has in environmentalism.
Moreover, a so-called “values revolution” seems to be taking place among millennials, according to a study conducted by Global Tolerance. The study says that 84% of millennials “consider it their duty to make a positive difference through their lifestyle.” Similarly, an article in Business Insider shares how millennials place great value on the sustainability of a purchase, and are more willing than other generations to spend more for an environmentally friendly product.
As consumers, millennials respond to environmental purpose, and we carry this fervent attitude towards social responsibility into the workplace.
Millennials want meaningful purpose
Companies that champion a purpose beyond financial gain increase their impact with millennials. We want to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR), and with a great wealth of knowledge on sustainability, our commitment often influences our attitudes towards our employers.
The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey concluded that millennials judge companies’ success on a level beyond the financial: my generation’s desire for commitments to improving the world displaces the traditional importance of profitability.
Unlike other generations, millennials actively seek employers whose environmental values align with theirs. The Global Tolerance report found 62% of millennials want to work for a company “that makes a positive impact” and 53% work harder knowing their work makes a difference to the world.
Championing a cause and promoting a purpose engages and inspires millennials, and I believe we value companies with a strong environmental and social record.
Purpose-driven business is sustainable – for all generations
Sustainability is simply another lens through which we can examine the impact of purpose-driven business on a millennial workforce. A company whose purpose in some way aligns with a millennial’s core values is a winning combination where the relationship between employer and employee becomes mutually beneficial.
However, while millennials may be driving the conversation, the effects of a sustainable purpose resonate with employees of all ages. A recent article in Harvard Business Review shows that a company’s engagement in sustainability creates a culture desirable to all employees. In fact, morale and productivity increase in employees when they feel a loyalty to their companies as a result of sustainability programs.
When a company has a purpose, whether environmental or otherwise, it sends a message to employees that their values and passions can be realized on a corporate level. For instance, my purpose and my company’s align. Working at SAP, I see firsthand that its vision and purpose is rooted in many causes, one of which is sustainability. Its dedication to creating a clean planet, combating climate change, and encouraging responsible growth is exemplar of a purpose-driven organization.
I feel lucky that I can share and channel my personal passion for a sustainable world in a professional setting. I feel as though my participation in a company that integrates sustainability “into [its] core business by embedding sustainability throughout [its] organization” adds value to society and benefits the environment. And because of this personal association, SAP has my loyalty.
This blog originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine, in the Improving Lives section. See here.