Millennials and Gen Z will take a pay cut if it means working at these companies

Each generation faces its own unique set of challenges and issues. Today, many younger adults and adolescents, more specifically millennials and their younger “Gen Z” counterparts, believe climate change is their obstacle to overcome.

It’s well documented that many, if not the majority, of young people these days rate sustainability and ecologically friendly practices as extremely important when it comes to choosing brands, companies, or even entertainers to support. 

Now, a new study out of Japan finds younger adults nowadays are even willing to take a pay cut to work for a sustainable business or company. In other words, researchers from Hiroshima University say younger generations are more than willing to put their money where their mouth is.

“Many people, in popular media or even in daily conversation, say that the younger generation is more socially conscious and has sustainable development goal-orientated behavior, but scientific evidence is limited,” says paper author Tomomi Yamane, a researcher with the Network for Education and Research on Peace and Sustainability (NERPS) at Hiroshima University. “In this study, we provide novel evidence that the younger generation preferred a sustainable lifestyle than the older generation. And younger people are willing to dispense income to work for SDG-minded companies.”

It’s important to mention that “sustainability” doesn’t only refer to fighting climate change. This project was first put together to gauge how strongly people support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Besides addressing climate change through cleaner energy and more responsible waste management, the UN”s sustainability goals also include ending poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, and providing clean water and sanitation for all of Earth’s inhabitants, just to name a few. The aim is to achieve all of these goals by 2030.

In pursuit of some insight, the study authors administered two surveys. The first encompassed 12,098 adults of various ages (so not just millennials and gen z). That research showed that adults between the ages of 18 and 30 are much more likely to support, value, and actively practice sustainable behaviors in their day-to-day lives.

“In 2030, the younger generation will be the central working force in society and is expected to make real efforts to create a sustainable future and likely play a substantial role in achieving the SDGs,” adds paper co-author Shinji Kaneko, a professor with NERPS at Hiroshima University. “Corporations wanting to attract younger people to buy their products or services or to work for them should incorporate the SDGs into their strategies and seriously contribute to SDGs.”

Additionally, that survey revealed that younger generations are a bit contradictory when it comes to employment. Younger adults simultaneously want secure, well-paying employment (even more so than older members of the workforce). But, at the same time, younger generations are also willing to take a pay cut if it means working for a sustainably-minded company.

A second survey was also administered, this time to 668 local university students. That round of surveys assessed the probability of respondents accepting various jobs depending on sustainability and rate of pay.

Even if offered a high salary, a respondent only had a 28% probability of accepting a position at a company that’s not concerned with sustainability. Meanwhile, if they were offered much less money from a sustainable company that probability increased to 56%. Predictably, respondents were 87% likely to accept a high-paying job at a sustainable company.

“Combined, the findings suggest that younger generations could change their behavior when they become knowledgeable about the inherent nature of SDGs, despite the findings from the first survey showing that the younger generation prefers better pay more than older generations,” Yamane concludes. “Our findings suggest that today’s younger generation can be the driving force for achieving the SDGs.”

The full study can be found here, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.