What brands in SE Asia can learn from Generation Z

Young people in South East Asia are pointing the way for brands who want to know how they can win with sustainability. Businesses and brands […]

Young people in South East Asia are pointing the way for brands who want to know how they can win with sustainability.

Businesses and brands across the region are questioning how much and where they should be investing in sustainability programmes, not least because of regulatory requirements, such as the recent announcement by the Singapore Stock Exchange that sustainability reporting is to become mandatory for its listed companies.

But the bigger question is how they can use sustainability to drive growth: how can sustainability programmes be seen as an investment for growth, rather than a tax on it?

Our latest research on Generation Z (16-20 year olds) in Singapore offers useful pointers for how they can answer this question.

We asked these young people what was important to them to create a better world, and who they felt was responsible for making it happen.  We found that what mattered most to this age group were social issues (peace, food security, and a reduction in poverty) more than environmental ones (sustainable energy and tackling climate change).  This is broadly in line with our findings for this age group in Europe.  This is not to say that the environment isn’t important to them, but rather that it’s easier to activate them around issues relating to people than the planet.

Where our Asian Generation Z differs though is in their understanding of who is responsible for tackling these big issues.  Like our European Gen Zs, this group see governments as having prime responsibility, but after them they see the responsibility lying with individuals.  They believe that they have a responsibility themselves to step up and be the change they want to see in the world, to echo Gandhi’s famous quote.  They challenge the stereotype that collectivism in countries like Singapore somehow restricts the sense of individual responsibility.

And they’re telling businesses that not only do they want to see them take the same responsibility (three quarters of our group believe that business has a responsibility to create a better world) but that they will reward them for doing so, by favouring them in the choices they make of what to buy and where to work.

This is how brands in the region should frame their discussions and decision-making around sustainability.  To go beyond expected responsibilities and reporting requirements to find those areas where they uniquely can contribute to making a better world and in so doing delight and engage tomorrow’s consumers in a profound and lasting way.

Photo credit: Mike Behnken

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This blog was first posted for Sustainable Brands Bangkok