Ethics and sustainability. How do you engage Gen Z with your brand?

Born between 1997 and 2012, they have never experienced a world without the internet. Someone calls them the TikTok Gen; most became adults during the pandemic, are highly dynamic, and care significantly for transparency and the environment. They are the so-called Gen Z!

Even though many people still consider them too young to be potential customers, many have already entered the job market and regularly purchase products that embody values and satisfy needs quite different from those of the Millennials. Therefore, several brands have started to get closer to the lifestyle of this new generation. 

If we had to sum up the priorities they have at heart, we would certainly mention:

  • environmental change
  • gender equality
  • economic opportunities
  • LGBTQIA+ rights
  • ethics and sustainability 

The last point—ethics and sustainability—is an essential element for companies but represents, at the same time, one of the most frequent pitfalls. Many businesses think they only need to add some fancy labels to their products and mission, such as "recycled", "eco-friendly", or "sustainable". However, Generation Z pays not only attention to your brand values but also to what you actually do. Using these adjectives is not enough to prove sincere attention toward such issues. 

We advise you to keep in mind what is important to your customers, including new and potential ones. Ask yourself if you are trying your best to get closer to them or if all you are doing is pretending.

How do ethics and sustainability reflect on buying habits?

Generation Z chooses where and from whom to purchase based on the values they believe. For this reason, they are usually keen on spending more on eco-friendly products and sustainable brands

Have you noticed how second-hand goods came back in fashion, and fast fashion is lagging? All of this is because of them, their battles, and their attention to recycling and reuse.  

In their analysis of the companies around them, they are particularly interested in how brands deal with inclusion. Most youngsters would want companies to commit to fighting against social inequalities. Analogously, many turn down job offers from companies that do not share their values.  

Many underestimated factors result from their needs: these young people long for authenticity, transparency, ecology, fairness, and solid values and need evidence for the alleged use of the terms “ecologic” and “sustainable”.

8 tips to engage Gen Z with your brand 

Everybody knows that bullet points are effective and easily retained. Here are eight key points to help you adjust your business to the new generation.

  • Avoid Greenwashing
    Do not pretend to be eco-friendly. Everyone will see if you are not honestly interested or not ready for it yet.
  • Give importance to inclusivity
    Start with being inclusive in your workplace and, later, in all that pertains to your brand. If you do not believe in it, it will be clear that you are faking it. 
  • Be honest
    Even though there are no set rules, each company can play a role and should find what works best. Ask yourself if your choices are coherent with your brand values and if they reflect the brand and the current needs.
  • Choose sustainable suppliers
    While trying to be fair and sustainable, you should also make sure your suppliers are. Otherwise, you might jeopardize all your efforts. Believe it or not, this happens quite frequently.
  • Favor digital communication channels and reduce waste
    The majority of Gen Z (and many others) prefer social media to print advertising and flyers. Instead of wasting paper and ink, try engaging with them more directly using their digital channels. 
  • Be transparent and involve people in the change 
    Generation Z is constantly seeking straightforward communication. They look for transparency and concreteness in companies, both in the way they communicate and in what lies behind them. 
    If you are pledging to reduce carbon emissions, then tell them how! 
    Are you testing out the four-day workweek? Show it and explain why you are doing it!
  • If possible, try to get sustainability certifications
    Otherwise, establish partnerships with sustainable organizations. For instance, if you produce shoes and want to create an eco-friendly line, try to connect with recognized associations working for the environment. 
  • Consider having a department devoted to sustainability 
    You might achieve it in a few months or several years, as each investment requires time and resources. However, having a team supervising and adjusting your business strategy following ethical and sustainable standards can significantly benefit your company. 

Three sustainable brands in 2023

Being sustainable is difficult but possible. Here are three brands that turned ethics and sustainability into core values. 

Patagonia

The first company to sell fleece apparel from recycled bottles, it has also introduced nylon obtained from post-industrial and post-consumer weaving.

In the last years, it also launched the Ironclad Guarantee, which allows customers to repair damaged or faulty clothes for free, extending the product life even further. 

Timberland

Well-known particularly for its shoes, it has launched a new line in the last years, GreenStride, with soles made of sugar cane and natural rubber (sourced from sustainable and responsible plantations) and waterproof linings, 50% made from recycled pet bottles. 

In addition, it has promoted Plant the Change, which will plant 50 million trees in the next five years, improving life for any living being on the planet. 

Ecophylla

Extremely attentive to respecting the balance with the ecosystem, the brand offers products for personal care, trying to minimize impacts and aiming at zero-waste production.

Probably, its most famous product is the bamboo toothbrush with bristles infused with activated charcoal. This toothbrush stands out against the numerous plastic alternatives still used by most competitors.

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