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Sustainability is key to engaging Millennials

UN Global Compact Network Australia | February 19, 2016

As the presence and influence of Millennials in our global workforces increase, understanding their values and beliefs as employees, consumers and investors, is becoming increasingly important. We know that Millennials will take on more and more senior management positions in the coming years, and their personal values will, no doubt, have an important influence on the decisions they make.

The annual 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey – Winning over the Next Generation of Leaders interviewed 7,700 Millennials across 29 countries (including Australia). This year it shows this cohort (born post 1984) of tertiary educated, fully employed individuals emphasises the importance of business behaving ethically, and demonstrating a commitment to helping improve society, as well as needing to be measured by more than just their financial performance.

Almost three quarters (73%) of the Millennials surveyed maintain that the businesses they work for have a positive impact on the wider society, and an increased proportion of respondents (58%) believe that businesses behave in an ethical manner, up 6% from the previous year.

Similarly, there has been a marginal increase in the proportion of Millennials who perceive a greater level of commitment by their leaders to helping improve society – 57% in 2016 compared with 53% in 2015. It is feasible that this increase could be due in part to the gradual increase in the Millennials surveyed occupying more senior management roles themselves.

Despite these positives signs, there does remain a significant ‘sustainability gap’ in the expectations of Millennials and their perceptions of business. These include:

  • 64% of Millennials believe that business continues to focus on its own agenda at the expense of adequately considering wider society in their decision-making
  • 54% believe that businesses are solely focussed on making money, reinforced by 87% of respondents believing that the ’success of business should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance’.

Millennials are clear that the long-term success of businesses will depend on innovative leaders who offer meaningful work, opportunities for professional development and a good work-life balance.

They also want their leaders to listen and consider their views and maintain an environment of trust and integrity. The environmental impact and broader corporate social responsibility agendas of organisations are also key values that Millennials believe will underpin the success of organisations into the future.

While Millennials want businesses to apply a long-term focus, the 2016 survey results reveal a lack of job loyalty by Millennials. Some 66% surveyed expect to leave their current place of employment by 2020, with 63% citing lack of leadership skill development as the primary reason.

However, the 2016 Survey also confirms that complementary corporate and personal values promote loyalty amongst Millennials, with 88% of those planning on remaining with their current employer for more than five years mentioning a shared sense of purpose, and 82% of this group citing alignment of values.

Close the sustainability gap to remain competitive

To maximise engagement with Millennials and keep them as employees or customers, companies should look at ways to close the gap. This can be achieved through increasing the focus on people (employees, customers and society), on products and purpose – and less on profits.  Millennials see profits as important, but they seek a more balanced perspective and want to be part of creating a more balanced scorecard and a more sustainable future.


Paul Dobson, Partner, Deloitte Sustainability Services

Paul is the National Lead Partner in the Deloitte Sustainability team with over 15 years of assurance and advisory experience. Paul has extensive experience working with complex sectors including energy, mining, manufacturing and property with a particular focuses on carbon, energy and sustainability services.

Shailesh Tyagi, Partner, Deloitte Sustainability Services

Shailesh is a Partner and the National Lead for the Energy & Resources sector in the Deloitte Sustainability team. He has more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of sustainability services, with a particular focus on climate change, energy and environmental compliance services in energy, oil and gas and mining sectors.

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UN Global Compact Network Australia