Airbnb has always positioned itself as the friendly alternative to hotel chains. But in February 2017, the sharing economy giant proved it was more than just empty corporate marketing.
In response to Donald Trump’s immigration ban, the company provided free short-term housing to 100,000 refugees, and screened a #WeAccept ad during the Super Bowl, featuring close-ups of faces from different backgrounds.
It was a compelling response, and sent the message that when it came to acceptance, the company was serious about putting its values into action.
The phrase “conscious capitalism” has always seemed like something of an oxymoron. But as the world becomes shaped by far-right politics, an uneven distribution of wealth and power and mounting anxieties related to the environment and climate, people — especially socially conscious millennials — are joining grassroots movements and rallying around political causes in droves.
The rise of the #MeToo movement has shone a powerful light on sexual harassment in the workforce. In the 2018 Women’s March saw one million women took to the streets of Washington, New York, Rome and Sydney to raise awareness about issues such as reproductive justice and economic oppression.
The Black Lives Matter movement draws on the power of social media to raise awareness about police brutality towards African-Americans, while driving a global conversation about systemic racism.
And in November 2018, more than 1000 students around Australia walked out of school to protest against the Government’s inaction on climate change. Inspired by a solo protest by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, school strikes for climate action have also taken place in countries including Germany, Canada and the UK.
- Inspired by Greta Thunberg, massive school strikes started in November 2018. Source: School Strike 4 Climate
But why now? In Australia, many factors are fuelling the breakdown in trust between the public and large organisations.
The fallout from the recent banking royal commission will continue, as many people question the ethical behaviour of banks, and how they invest customers’ money.
PwC’s 20th CEO Survey found that two-thirds of Australian CEOs were concerned about the lack of trust in their businesses. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only one in five people believed the system was working for them.
Like Airbnb, more companies are wising up to the fact that corporate social responsibility isn’t about name-checking a charity or hosting annual fundraisers. It’s about ensuring that businesses are working towards long-term social change.
In 2018, Nike, a brand long known for its intelligent marketing campaigns, challenged one-dimensional ideas around female identity by launching an ad campaign featuring Serena Williams, an athlete who symbolises both strength and vulnerability.
In the same year, Procter & Gamble explored the need for an honest dialogue around race relations via The Talk, a short film that shows young African-Americans discussing real-life struggles with their parents.
It’s exciting that businesses are increasingly responding to rising political awareness. But the fact that younger generations are committed to integrity – over price and convenience — is the biggest sign that things might be changing. For the first time in history, growing demand for transparent businesses has the potential to shape the world for decades to come.
Research demonstrates that three out of four millennials are willing to pay more for products that are ethical and sustainable. And according to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, 80% of millennials believe business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance, and should make a positive impact on society and the environment.
hotographer/source: John Englart (Takver)
- A November 2017 report in the AFR found that millennials were the likeliest group to embrace ethical investing, and were passing on this preference to their parents. P
This is causing a ripple effect across industries as diverse as fashion, food and banking.
Just look to the rise of ethical financial institutions and super funds that invest in renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. The simple choice of where you keep your savings, or with which bank you choose to do your daily banking, can have an impact.
Bank Australia, for example, abides by a responsible banking policy and invests in renewable energy projects, affordable housing and non-for-profit organisations. Unlike other organisations, it doesn’t invest in live animal exports, fossil fuels or weapons.
Fittingly, a November 2017 report in the AFR found that millennials were the likeliest group to embrace ethical investing, and were passing on this preference to their parents.
Ultimately, millennials don’t see their buying habits and investments as passive decisions. They see them as an active expression of the ideals and ethics that they value most.
Given that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, this shift is a powerful barometer of the future of business. It’s also an opportunity for organisations to see purpose and profits as interconnected — and pave the way for real change in the process.
Bank Australia harnesses its investment power for good, investing in affordable housing, renewable energy and non-for-profit organisations. To learn more, go to bankaust.com.au/cleanmoney