Today, big business is faced with a consumer landscape that makes side-stepping Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives nearly impossible: Millennials. Simply defined, CSR is a business model that helps a company be socially accountable on an economic, social, and environmental scope.
The Millennial consumer isn’t so easily appeased by monetary perks like bargain hunting or label brandishing. Rather, they reward companies that publicly make Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues a top priority.
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This begs the question, what is ESG Investing and why are Millennials so obsessed with it?
While most express interest in altruistic business endeavors and policy, only 15% of people actually know what ESG stands for. ESG issues are a set of criteria by an organization that socially conscious investors use to invest in that company.
More than ever, Millennials are becoming more discerning about factoring in a company’s stance on ESG issues before doing business with them.
In a study by Cone, 76% of Millennials said they’d research a company thoroughly before making a buying decision. And, Millennial moral righteousness is not excluded to their buying habits. Seventy-five percent said they’d be willing to take a pay cut if it means working for a company that is environmentally and socially responsible.
The shift in consumer demand is a call to action for investors to capitalize on ESG policy.
ESG investment has doubled over the last three years and now represents $1 of every $4 invested in the United States.
According to a recent survey by Allianz Life, when asked to rank the importance of an issue in making an investment decision, 73% of respondents ranked Environmental and Social issues as areas of greatest influence.
This investment trend is wide-sweeping, applicable across a wide range of industries. No company, no matter its size or financial prowess, is exempt. In a new survey by Morgan Stanley, 75% of asset managers say their firms have adopted sustainable investing, up from merely 10% in 2016. A whopping 89% said that they’d devote additional resources to sustainable investing in the next 1-2 years.
Across the board, companies are wielding sustainability as a marketing asset. Research by Ceres found that among 600 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., close to two-thirds have publicly disclosed their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) now accounts for $26 trillion, a 2018 study from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found, more than a quarter of all assets under professional management worldwide. The study affirms a growing Millennial predilection to make socially impactful investment decisions.
When companies dismiss ESG investment opportunities, they miss out
Despite the mounting evidence on the importance of ESG in consumer marketing, many companies still fail to see the financial advantages of adopting a sustainable business model. U.S. companies may be keeping an open dialogue with investors on sustainability issues, but the grand majority are doing so in a way that assumes that sustainable initiatives are merely a superfluous “nice-to-do” rather than a lucrative asset.
Those that fail to recognize this potential don’t only run the risk of missing out financially, they also forego the chance to discern themselves from competing industries. In fact, in a recent Allianz Life survey, 84% said companies that focus on being a good corporate citizen have better long term prospects than those who don’t.
Companies shouldn’t dismiss the ESG investment trend if they want to sustain a growing pool of ethically impelled consumers.
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