• ISSN: 2155-7950
  • Journal of Business and Economics

Sustainability in Business: A Millennials’ Perspective

Andrea Valente, David Atkinson
(Pearson Business School, London, UK)

Abstract: The detrimental effect mankind has on the planet continues, with its ability to produce far more than can be consumed is resulting in unmanageable effects to the earth (Senge, 1990). Achieving a performance advantage while not causing destructive effects is the new challenge. Consequently, considering the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs), this study investigated how environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) could contribute to a better financial performance for multinational companies.

Due to the ecological, economic, and social consequences of business (Mebratu, 1998) it has never been more important for society to lean towards sustainable practices (Brune, 2016). As new challenges emerge, new concepts of how to deal with them evolve, including the concept of sustainable developmentas a foundation to management thinking and descision making. Private businesses are a key component in acheiveing the UN's desired sustainable view, as they can help to fill the $3tn annual investment gap expected to be needed across the next 15 years (Earley, 2016).

As a generation, millennials have a critical role to play in achieving a sustainable furture. Millennials are the next group of business thinkers and decisions makers. Based on research conducted by this study, eight out of ten London based millennials acknowledged the private sector has a critical role in helping to achieve a sustainable future for all. However, fewer than three in ten millennials actually believe that private businesses will take action, instead continuing to place their short-term profitability mindset ahead of sustainability (Tuffrey, 2016). With a world population of 50% under the age of 30 (WEF, 2017), and with millennials continuing to become more conscious of trends which affect the planet and their future, the expectation of businesses to act sustainably seems to be rising.

This study confirmed a multitude of ways to increase business performance sustainably, such as driving sales by targeting consumers increasing willingness to pay a premium for sustainable goods. A questionnaire supported this approach by confirming that 9 out of 10 millennial Londoners acknowledged that action on climate-change should be the responsibility of both individuals and private businesses. However, a smaller amount, only 4 out of 10 millennials surveyed, were willing to contribute by shifting their purchasing-behaviour, to more sustainable products, if prices were higher. Further to this, if a product was found to be unethical, the data collected showed 75% of millennials would take action by looking for a competitor or leaning towards an alternative (30% of those surveyed). Consequently the results suggest millennials expect the private sector to step up and deliver sustainable products at competitive prices in order to truely help.

Key words: ESG factors; sustainability; millennials

JEL code: Q56

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