Generation Z, the first generation born in the 21st century, is being shaped by a world at risk. They were born into global terrorism, the Great Recession, social inequality, climate change and, too often in the United States, living in a single-parent household. Their combined experiences have made them fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, environmentally aware and urgently engaged.
This is the generation that will collaborate among themselves to demand sustainable solutions from businesses and government using their buying power and votes. Their collective procurement of sustainable solutions, along with their entrepreneurial pursuits, will reshape the world’s economy. They will be the generation that realizes a global Green Economic Revolution by making corporate social responsibility (CSR) a core criteria in deciding what to buy and who to buy from.
Defining Generation Z
The millennial generation is the last generation born in the 20th century, and this year they became the largest employed demographic group in the U.S.
As a reminder: Generation Z is the first generation born in the 21st century. Their ages range from 2 to 19, and they represent about 25 percent of the U.S. population. Today they have approximately $44 billion in annual buying power. If businesses and governments thought they had to change to adapt to millennials, then they should appreciate this: Gen Z is already working to change their world.
Generation Z’s behaviors are shaped by their digital devices and social media. This is the generation with the Internet in their pocket! Key metrics include:
- The smartphone was their first electric device
- They crowdsource information through their social media
- They spend a higher percentage of their money online than any other generation
They hold a global perspective enabled through digital connectivity. Generation Z members have a high affinity with fellow members in other countries. Generation Z members in Beijing, New York, Mexico City and Paris will typically feel they have more in common among themselves than with members of other generations in their own countries.
They are also highly entrepreneurial with a strong sense of urgency. Pioneering members of this generation are already starting businesses. While the millennial generation was focused on getting a college education to secure a good job, Generation Z plans to take entrepreneurial action to control their own destiny.
Generation Z uses CSR to choose what to buy and who to buy from
As fiscal conservatives, Generation Z views the sharing economy as an efficient utilization of their limited financial resources. They also view it as an environmental solution that “costs less and means more” in terms of less waste and pollution.
This generation questions ownership of things. They ask: Why buy something when access is the desired goal? Their economics is shaped by downloading, renting or sharing. Their procurement path will be a crowdsourcing process that relies on the experiences of others in their generation drawn from around the world.
Generation Z views corporate social responsibility as a core brand identifier for products and businesses. This generation rejects gender, ethnic, or sexual-preference intolerance and discrimination. They expect businesses to deploy green supply chains that prudently use resources to limit environmental and human-health impacts. They expect the products they buy, rent or share to align value with values. These expectations will be global. A business that does wrong on the other side of the world will be exposed via social media through Generation Z’s global connectivity and aligned values. CSR will be this generation’s foundation for evaluating what companies they will work for and do business with.
Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly On Generation Z
Sheryl Connelly is Ford’s futurist. She leads Ford’s publication of Looking Forward With Ford that annually highlights ten future trends. The first trend listed in the 2015 publication is “Make Way For Gen Z.”
This exclusive interview conducted at the Sustainable Brands 2015 conference is a must-watch, three-minute video on how Generation Z has started down the path of reshaping the world — and your business opportunities.
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