How to get Millennials to embrace sustainable lifestyles

by Fidea Encarnacion,

Posted at May 25 2014 03:20 PM | Updated as of May 25 2014 11:20 PM

Chandran Nair, founder and CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow, and Gerry Boyle, chairman of ZenithOptimedia Asia-Pacific, talk about sustainability at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Makati City. Photo by Sikarin Thanachaiary, World Economic Forum

MANILA – How can businesses in East Asia attract Millennials to embrace sustainable lifestyles?

This was the subject of the session "Connect on Consumption: The Millennial Sustainability Movement" during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Makati on Friday.

Panelists discussed on how millennials, or those born between 1980 to 1996, can help in solving and maintaining sustainability in East Asia.

Gerry Boyle, Chairman of ZenithOptimedia Asia-Pacific, said businesses will need to find way to approach the market in a manner where they will be able to promote sustainability through their products or services.

“[If companies continue to operate] increasingly without approach to sustainability… I don’t think that those brands wouldn’t have the same value in the future... The present value of those brands, in the absence of sustainability, will decrease," Boyle said.

He said that consumers of today are more conscious of social issues and problems, and are willing to pay more for products which do try to push for sustainable growth or causes.

“The fact that people are willing to pay more [for products] that display more sustainability resources… suggests that sustainability has a value," he said.

What exactly is sustainability?

Chandran Nair, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong's Global Institute for Tomorrow, said sustainability is not exactly doing good, but has the goal to solve pressing issues in society.

“Sustainability [is] not doing good, but the agenda of changing the way we deliver on this part of the world," Nair said.

This is where the Millennials come in.

Fiona Lawrie, Sustainability Reporting Coordinator of Westfarmers, Australia, said that Millennials will play a big role in this issue because they are the ones going to talk about it, and who will inherit and solve the issues left by older generations.

She said that through social media and all the other new various ways of connecting today, Millennials will be able to contribute a different perspective and new ways of how businesses must be conducted.

“[There is a need to] change the way Millennials live their lives…They are going to be talking about it, they are the ones who are to inherit and solve issues left by older generations... Through social media and new ways of connecting…to tell organizations what they want," Lawrie said.

Dinh Ba Thanh, chairman and chief executive officer of DatVieVAC Group Holdings, said that businesses are the important players in solving sustainability issues because they are the ones who have a lot of power in society.

Businesses have the responsibility to give back, and right now, there is an opportunity to do that.

“Business community owns the society, [so] they need to take responsibility to contribute back to the community…There is an opportunity to talk about social good," he said.