Millennials Offer Companies a New Opportunity: 'Reverse Crowdsourcing'


Suzanne Shelton

Millennials are less likely to recycle than other generations, but more likely to buy from companies making a positive impact on the world, a new survey finds.

The reason, according to the new survey and report from The Shelton Group: Millennials believe corporations have more power to solve global problems than individuals.

“Millennials are pushing companies to make a positive impact on the world because they believe global problems are too big for individuals to solve,” said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of The Shelton Group, a marketing and research firm focused on energy and the environment. “Millennials will reward corporations that take action and address problems for them.”

Shelton calls it “reverse crowdsourcing.”

“Millennials see corporations as having the power of many -- the ultimate crowd,” Shelton said. “Millennials see spending money with these companies as another form of activism. It’s crowdsourcing by consumerism.”

“Companies now have the opportunity to help Millennials do what they think they can’t do for themselves,” Shelton added. “It truly is reverse crowdsourcing.”

The report found that most Millennials aren’t particularly concerned about certain sustainable habits. Asked, “Which, if any, of the following habits would you be embarrassed about if people found you had or didn’t have them?”

-- 41 percent said tossing trash out the car window

-- 39 percent said wasting food

-- 28 percent said wasting water

-- 25 percent said not recycling things

-- 18 percent said leaving the lights on when I leave a room

Shelton Group’s 2016 EcoPulse study found that Millennials fall behind others when it comes to the more easier green activities: Only 33 percent of Millennials say they adjust the thermostat to save energy (vs. 48 percent of all Americans) and just 34 percent recycled paper and aluminum cans (vs. 46 percent overall).

But that doesn’t mean Millennials don’t care about the environment. In fact, they worry more about climate change than other Americans.

The survey found 76 percent of Millennials say they are “somewhat to extremely concerned about the impact climate change will have on their quality of life during their lifetimes.” And 82 percent say they’re worried about the impact of climate change on their children’s quality of life.

By comparison, in the EnergyPulse survey, only 51 percent of the general population said they were anxious about climate change.

Millennials’ concerns about the environment play a major part in their purchasing decisions. Asked, “How much impact, if any, does the following have on your decision to purchase its products?,” 70 percent of Millennials selected a company’s environmental practices.

“Clearly, Millennials are concerned about the environment, but many feel the problems are too big for them to tackle as individuals,” Shelton said. “So they’re looking to corporations to take action.”

Asked, “Why do a company’s environmental or social/business practices impact your purchase decisions?” Almost 60 percent of Millennials said either:

-- “I prefer to purchase from companies addressing problems I feel that I can do little to address on my own."

Or ...

-- “Environmentally/socially responsible companies take care of these things for me (which frees me up to focus on other things).”

Said Shelton: “That gives companies a real opportunity: Help the planet, help your business."

The survey also found 81 percent of Millennials say they seek information about a company’s environmental or social/business practices while making a purchase decision, at least occasionally.

“Millennials are watching and listening carefully,” Shelton said. “Companies really have to practice what they preach. Just saying you’re committed to an issue isn’t enough. You actually have to do something meaningful. And if you do, Millennials will reward you.”

For a free copy of the report, visit .


Shelton Group, based in Knoxville, Tenn., is the nation’s leading marketing communications agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. Their vision is that every home and building in America is energy responsible and sustainability is ordinary; their purpose is to create a market advantage for the organizations that are creating that energy-responsible, sustainable future. With research, strategy and creative expertise, they help their clients build brand affinity, market their products and start movements. Learn more at


The Millennial Pulse questionnaire was designed by Shelton Group and fielded in June 2017. Shelton Group surveyed a total of 1,000 Millennial respondents. The survey sample was stratified to mirror the U.S. Millennial distribution, using quotas for geography, age, gender, education and race; data were weighted slightly to match U.S. Millennial population distributions. Margin of error is +/- 3.1%. A free copy is available at

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