The youth research and insights firm YPulse recently publicized a survey conducted by the independent assurance and risk management provider DNV that polled 2,900 consumers in the US and Europe. One of the most interesting insights came from one of the least studied demographics–Generation Z.
Of course, much admiration-based coverage has been given to leaders like Greta Thunberg or organizations like the Sunrise Movement for speaking truth to power. But too often, this coverage does not extend to the thoughts or feelings of the demographic as a whole for the sad fact that they don’t yet enjoy enough purchasing power for firms to want to understand their thoughts on the market (that is unless it’s a social media company trying to target them for product advertisements).
But what this study finds is that 53% of Gen Z say that they actively participate in the circular economy. As YPulse can corroborate, their studies have shown Gen Z taking mass market actions on buying second hand goods or figuring out ways to recycle their unwanted clothes. And even more exciting, YPulse also found that almost 50% of Gen Z have reported using online platforms to trade goods to not just keep goods out of the landfill, but also to get a better economic deal.
At Circular Philadelphia, we’re of course excited by these numbers for the general hope that Gen Z is not only anxious about climate change, but also doing something about it. However, for the circular organizations we represent, this should be seen as an opportunity to ensure that they don’t overlook this important demographic that is starting to build careers and wealth.
53% of Gen Z say they actively participate in the circular economy.
There’s a major market opportunity to shift the economic paradigm by meeting the circularity requirements of these consumers. There are also real opportunities to recruit these young people as current employees and future leaders of circular enterprises.
We recognize that dividing people by generation may be silly at best and patronizing at worst. In his book The Generation Myth, Bobby Duffy insightfully argues that “generations” usually only refer to “cohort effects” and don’t factor in the equally if not more important “period-effects” and “life-cycle events.”
But what we’re seeing here is that Gen Z is responding to the urgency of living through the “period-effects” of great economic and environmental upheaval. And even though Gen Z may be in a different “life-cycle” than other demographics, they are primed by the times to want to use their emerging economic might to do better for this planet than those before them. And we should all take heed to see members of this generation as equal allies in the midst of this fight to change our economy and save our climate rather than young kids just playing around the edges.
Photo credit: Temple University