China’s 382 Million Millennials Demand Corporate Social Responsibility

    This enormous group of young Chinese consumers expects the brands they're buying to be socially engaged and ready to make a difference.
    In 2012, Yoox China teamed up with Supermodel Naomi Campbell to sell a line of specially designed t-shirts for Campbell's "Fashion for Relief" charity. (Yoox)
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    In 2012, Yoox China teamed up with supermodel Naomi Campbell to sell a line of specially designed t-shirts for Campbell's "Fashion for Relief" charity. (Yoox)

    A vast majority of millennials across the world expects brands to engage in corporate social responsibility—and China is no different, according to a new report.

    A survey by communications agency MSL Group that questioned 8,000 milllennials worldwide born between 1984 and 1996 found that in China, 92 percent of respondents demand business involvement in addressing social issues. This is in line with millennials’ expectations globally: 73 percent said that government can’t solve major social by itself, and 83 percent want corporations to be actively involved.

    “The overwhelming majority of millennials believe corporate involvement in tackling issues such as economy, health and environment is a key factor to build a successful outcome,” said MSLGROUP Chief Strategy OfficerPascal Beucler. “Millennials look to businesses not only to lead, but to actively engage them in the process. This opens up huge opportunities for businesses worldwide to re-set in the face of declining consumer trust.”

    With strong concerns about environmental problems, education, and healthcare, China’s approximately 382 million millennials also expect sophistication, innovation, and creativity from corporations in contributing to social issues with tangible, quantifiable results. “Brands that are socially active are perceived as forward thinking and responsible,” said Ellen Cheng, MSL’s Asia practice group lead for Corporate & Brand Citizenship based in Beijing. “This indicates that citizenship is a strong differentiating factor for brands: more than 83 percent of Chinese Gen Y would recommend a brand to friends or family because of its citizenship efforts.” A total of 72 percent want their employers to help enable them to get involved, while 84.9 percent “want to work for an active citizen.”

    In addition, Chinese millennials’ demand to hear about companies’ active citizenship in the news is the highest in the world at a rate of 69 percent.

    According to Scott Beaudoin, global director of MSLGROUP’s Corporate and Brand Citizenship practice, the report highlights the imperative for brands to become active in social responsibility efforts. "The study findings demonstrate a clear path for corporations looking to engage with this influential generation: Business Citizenship is the new platform on which strong consumer, employer, and stakeholder relationships can be established and built,” he says.

    Corporate social responsibility has been increasingly important for luxury brands in China in recent years. E-tailer Yoox has been especially active with philanthropic work in China through efforts such as its collaboration with Naomi Campbell's Fashion for Relief charity and its Yooxygen environmental program. Environmental issues have been especially big for brands in China: Marriott has supported environmental charity Shanghai Roots & Shoots, and Shanghai Tang has collaborated with an organization called Save China's Tigers since 2008. In 2013, drinks conglomerate Diageo launched a fund to support the China Women’s Development Foundation, while Mercedes-Benz China launched its Star Fund charity in 2010 to support environmental protection, music, arts, sports, education, and disaster relief. Luxury brands including Hugo Boss and Bottega Veneta are also particularly active in the arts in China with special programs to support emerging Chinese artists.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.