Next year, Generation Z will represent almost a quarter of the workforce. With that comes an expectation that their employers have a social and environmental stance on issues. For insight into Gen Z’s perspective on corporate social responsibility, hear first-hand feedback from Devon Geelan, a panelist at Advertising Week New York and Marketing Manager at Fluent.

In your opinion – how do you think Gen Z differs from the generations before you?

Our adolescence aligned with the rise of smartphones, making for information overload. Gen Z grew up reading compelling stories shared across the Internet in such a native platform, it felt like activists and world leaders were speaking directly to us. I think this kind of digital social interaction is what makes us more cause-driven.

This information also leads us to be aware of advertising in a whole new way. Branding is more important than ever, in our own lives and for the companies, we buy from. I think we’re holding brands accountable and expecting more from them than past generations.

What is your generation’s responsibility to impact society?

Each generation offers a unique perspective that enables social change. One of Gen Z’s major strengths is our innate understanding of technology. It is our responsibility to help older generations better use these new tools and resources in meaningful ways. It is also important to consider volunteering at non-profits and other organizations that have existed for hundreds of years to ensure they’re informed on how they can use technology to push their mission forward.  

How do you live social good in your day-to-day life?

I’ve become almost notorious in my office for using reusable utensils, plates, and cups. In the grand scheme of the issues facing our environment, it’s not making a huge impact. However, I think when the masses start requesting alternatives, companies will have to make changes, and those changes can make a huge difference.

What companies do a great job of giving back?

Tom’s stands out to me as one of the first brands putting social good at the forefront of their business. Everyone I knew growing up was aware of their mission, to give a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. Today, many brands are emulating a similar model – Warby Parker, State, and Bombas to name a few. For me, when comparing two similar products, I’m more excited to purchase the one that’s also giving back.

Aside from the buy one give one model, I know there are many companies that donate profit, use ethical practices, and are making strides in sustainability. I think there’s room in every brand to add social good. There are plenty of profitable businesses that aren’t innately ‘for good’ but allocating budget to worthy causes can make employees more motivated, consumers more engaged, and society better!

How important is authenticity to Gen Z and how do you decide if something isn’t authentic?

Inauthenticity can quickly counter-act positive press. It is always good to donate money and time, but if your company values and actions don’t align our generation is quick to call the bluff. For example, donating to organizations aiding the environment is wonderful, but if your company is responsible for significant pollution, there is work that needs to be done within the organization itself to truly make a change.

I see this impacting the beauty industry as well. Consumers in our generation feel like we know brands, including the personal brands of celebrities. Today, when choosing a brand ambassador, it’s important that the product aligns with their personal brand or consumers won’t ‘buy’ it.