Gen Z & sustainability - the importance of sustainability in the younger generation

When it comes to sustainability, Gen Z is stepping up and taking a stand for environmental and social change. Gen Z was born roughly between 1997 and 2012 and is the generation that comes after Millennials. Why is sustainability so important to Gen Z, and how are their values and consumer habits driving a greener future? Let’s dive in and explore this topic. 

Understanding Gen Z

Who is Gen Z?

They are digital experts, having grown up with the internet and social media as integral parts of their lives. This tech-savvy generation is diverse, well-educated, and deeply aware of global issues.

Characteristics of Gen Z

This generation is characterized by its practical approach, self-reliance, and deep commitment to social justice. They value authenticity and are often skeptical of traditional institutions. These traits make them particularly receptive to sustainability and ethical practices.

Gen Z’s values and attitudes towards sustainability

Environmental consciousness

Environmental issues are at the forefront of Gen Z’s concerns. They are highly aware of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, and they believe in taking action to mitigate these threats. Many Gen Z individuals participate in environmental activism, attend climate strikes, and support policies to reduce carbon footprints.

Social responsibility

Beyond environmental issues, Gen Z places a high value on social responsibility. They support causes related to human rights, gender equality, and economic fairness. This generation believes that businesses and individuals should contribute to society’s welfare.

Ethical consumerism

Their ethical standards define Gen Z’s approach to consumerism. They prefer to buy from brands that align with their values, such as those that promote fair trade, cruelty-free products, and sustainable practices. They are willing to not support companies they believe do not act sustainably.

Consumer Habits of Gen Z

Preference for sustainable products

Gen Z prioritizes sustainability when making purchasing decisions. They look for eco-friendly products, made from sustainable materials, and have a minimal environmental impact. This preference drives demand for organic, recycled, and upcycled goods.

Influence of social media

Social media plays a significant role in shaping Gen Z’s consumer habits. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are not just for entertainment; they are powerful tools for raising awareness about sustainability. Influencers and content creators who promote sustainable lifestyles have a considerable impact on Gen Z’s choices.

Support for ethical brands

Gen Z actively supports brands that demonstrate ethical practices. They conduct research, read reviews, and are quick to call out companies that engage in unethical behaviors. Brands that are transparent about their supply chains and show a commitment to ethical standards gain their loyalty.

Gen Z and the environment

Reduction of plastic use

Gen Z is leading the charge in reducing plastic use. They prefer products with minimal packaging and are more likely to use reusable items like water bottles, shopping bags, and straws. This shift in consumer behavior is pushing businesses to innovate and reduce their plastic footprint.

Support for renewable energy

This generation supports the transition to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower. They recognize the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and are supportive of policies and technologies that promote clean energy.

Impact on the market

Shaping business practices

The demand for sustainable products from Gen Z is influencing how businesses operate. Companies are reevaluating their supply chains, sourcing materials responsibly, and adopting greener practices to meet the expectations of this eco-conscious generation.

Demand for transparency

Transparency is crucial for Gen Z. They expect companies to be open about their environmental and social impacts. Brands that provide clear information about their sustainability efforts and are honest about their challenges are more likely to gain Gen Z’s trust.

Encouraging corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a significant aspect of business strategy due to Gen Z’s influence. Companies are increasingly engaging in initiatives that benefit society and the environment, from community projects to reducing carbon footprints, to meet the expectations of young consumers.

Challenges and criticisms


One major challenge is greenwashing, where companies falsely claim or exaggerate their sustainability efforts to appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Gen Z is particularly critical of greenwashing and uses social media to call out companies that engage in this practice.

Economic barriers

Despite their strong values, economic barriers can affect Gen Z’s ability to always choose sustainable options. Sustainable products often come with higher price tags, which can be a constraint for young people who may not yet have substantial disposable income.

Information overload

With vast amounts of information available, it can be challenging for Gen Z to discern credible sources and make informed decisions. The sheer volume of data on sustainability can be overwhelming, leading to confusion and inaction.

How businesses can engage Gen Z

Authentic branding

To connect with Gen Z, brands need to be authentic. This means not only marketing sustainability but also embedding it into their core values and operations. Authenticity builds trust and loyalty among young consumers.

Sustainable product development

Developing sustainable products is key. Businesses should focus on using eco-friendly materials, minimizing waste, and creating products that have a lower environmental impact. Innovation in this area can set brands apart in a competitive market.

Effective communication strategies

Communication is crucial. Brands should use clear and honest messaging about their sustainability efforts. Utilizing social media platforms to share stories, and updates, and engage with consumers can help build a community around sustainability.

The future of sustainability with Gen Z

Gen Z’s dedication to sustainability promises lasting positive effects. As they assume more influential roles, their values will shape policies, business practices, and cultural norms toward greater sustainability. Their focus drives innovation, prompting businesses to create eco-friendly products and solutions. With a global outlook, their activism and consumer habits can drive sustainability efforts worldwide, encouraging international change.


In summary, Gen Z’s dedication to sustainability is reshaping how we think about and approach environmental and social issues. Their values and consumer habits are pushing businesses to adopt greener practices, fostering a more sustainable future. As we move forward, the influence of this generation will undoubtedly continue to grow, leading us toward a more sustainable and ethical world.

~Sofia Eironen


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