MSLGroup study: Millennials have high hopes for businesses

Millennials want businesses to help solve the world's problems, realizing that government can't do the job by itself.

NEW YORK: Millennials are looking to businesses, not government, to solve the world’s most challenging issues, according to a global study from MSLGroup.

Governments cannot solve societal issues by themselves, according to 73% of the 8,000 Millennials in 17 countries who were surveyed between April and May for the study, called "The Business Citizenship" report. In addition, 83% of those surveyed said businesses should be more active driving social and environmental change.

Scott Beaudoin, global director of MSLGroup’s corporate and brand citizenship practice, attributed those findings to the fact that Millennials have grown up in a world beset by economic, political, and cultural upheaval. The majority of respondents recognize that governments and public institutions can’t fix everything and want the business community to get involved, he explained.

"[Millennials’] trust in business is still low, but their trust in government is lower," said Beaudoin. "So they are pinning all of their hopes on businesses for a brighter future, because they understand businesses have the wherewithal to really unite and inspire change."

One example is the reputational crisis faced by the National Football League, a private entity that the public is holding accountable for punishing former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, rather than the judicial system. Beaudoin contended that five years ago, this would not have happened, and the NFL does not seem to understand its power in this situation.

"[Last week], the NFL created a female team to aid its social responsibility efforts surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault. That is great and expected, and the NFL is doing the right thing, but it seems too little, too late," Beaudoin said.

He added that the NFL is "looking at the situation [like] they got caught with their pants down, so now they have to make changes so people think they are committed to ending domestic violence in their own business. I think it needs to go beyond that; they are missing the point."

Based on the study’s results, Millennials are looking for the NFL to drive change in a situation like this. To do so, the league should think about its core competencies as a business, Beaudoin explained.

For instance, the organization’s household penetration is very deep, it has strong media partnerships with tremendous reach, and its athletes are role models to children. Therefore, Millennials want to see the NFL leverage those resources to uplift society and help end domestic violence in the US, he said.

"In terms of PR in a situation like this, it is not about the tried and true, the antiquated crisis strategies, and social responsibility efforts where you are checking the boxes and ensuring you are acting as a good corporate citizen," said Beaudoin. "The study’s results show us PR pros now have a tremendous opportunity to harness the unique resources a business has to drive change."

The study also found that 69% of Millennials want businesses to make it easier for consumers to get involved in social issues and encourage them to become advocates. But rather than watch from the sidelines, more than half (51%) also want to get personally involved in making the world a better place.

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