Thursday, 20 January, 2022

Sustainable development: this study undermines stereotypes about Millennials

Become in recent years the favorite target of marketing, Millennials are the subject of many clichés: city dwellers, connected, sores, ecologists … The list of stereotypes is long to describe these young people born between 1980 and 1995. It must be said that this Generation has something to interest brands: it represents nearly one in five French people, or more than 12 million consumers. “These are the reservoir of tomorrow’s consumption” recalls Stéphane Petijtean, associate consulting director at GreenFlex. The subsidiary company of Total, which supports companies in the environmental transition, studied the reports of Millennials on sustainable development, based on the study it has carried out every year since 2004 on the French and responsible consumption.

Results? The image of the eco-friendly bobo is shattered. Only one in ten young people regularly frequent an organic store and they are as much to practice sharing as not to practice it, for example. Rather than seeing Millennials as one homogeneous group, GreenFlex identifies six different profiles whose consumption patterns diverge.

Six Millennial Profiles

Millennials “Labels” for example live mainly in big cities, have rather high standards of living and studies. “They are mainly alone in an apartment, go out and spend a lot, but culture and travel are important to them,” explains Stéphane Petitjean. They are the ones, according to GreenFlex, who buy the most sustainable products but they opt for a consumption “trend”. Hence the presence in their shopping bag of products such as organic avocados, fresh smoothies or shea shower foams, according to the fictitious shopping list illustrated by the study.

In the shopping bag “- in organic cotton” slides, for the image, GreenFlex – of the Millennials “Experts”, there are instead nitrite-free ham or ecological household products. These young urbanites and epicureans get information before consuming, consider health a priority and, moreover, 82% find it very important to indicate the presence of risky substances (against 73% for all Millennials) and change their way of life and not just their purchases.

It is these two categories that primarily consume sustainable products, notes GreenFlex. Millennials “Proximity” as the study calls them thus take a distance from what is stamped “sustainable”. But these young people who have chosen not to live in the city are adept at making themselves and local consumption. Young people who could very well have local and seasonal vegetables or solvent-free glue in their shopping bags… Millennials “Shopping”, for their part, have doubts about sustainable approaches. They tend to be city-dwellers and make “pleasure purchases despite not having a high purchasing power” remarks Stéphane Petitjean. “Smart” Millennials, for their part, compensate for their financial constraints by making “smart” purchases by favoring quantity purchases and by showing themselves to be handymen, for example, but they nevertheless pay a certain attention to sustainable development. Finally, “Defiant” Millennials are resistant to products labeled sustainable, seeing sustainable development as an additional constraint when they are already financially constrained.

Distrust of big business

It is difficult to amalgamate such different profiles but GreenFlex nonetheless underlines some “transversal signals” between these groups, in particular a “(very) critical look at responsible offer”: the Millennials “Labels” excepted, the 5 other groups identified do not “believe brands when they are committed to sustainable development”. Another point in common: a very marked mistrust of large companies: they are now only 28% to trust them “globally” against 62% in 2004. A sharp drop in confidence which is also found in the whole of the French population: 27% of French people say they trust large companies in 2017 against 58% in 2004.

This distrust is hardly surprising. In its observatory of emerging consumption in March 2018, the ObSoCo (Observatory for society and consumption) noted that only 41% of French people trust large companies as consumers, this is 10 points less than in 2012. A l ‘Conversely, artisans, small traders or peasants have the confidence of 8 out of 10 French people. And this mistrust can also be one of the explanations for new consumption practices among the French (more or less marked depending on the population categories) beyond simple sustainable consumption, such as the use of sites such as Airbnb or BlaBlaCar, Do It Yourself, or even the use of subscription packages or of VTC or bike-sharing services …