Millennials are leading an investment revolution — here’s what makes their generation different

  • Nuveen’s Third Annual Responsible Investing Survey of over 1,000 affluent investors found there is increased interest in working for, buying from, and investing in socially responsible companies. This is even more true among the millennials surveyed.
  • 92% of millennials agreed with the statement “I care more about having a positive impact on society than doing well financially,” compared with only 52% of non-millennials.
  • We interviewed a few millennials and asked them what makes their generation different. They said access to information, aligning themselves with brands on social media, and growing up in more comfortable economic circumstances than their parents and grandparents.

Nuveen Third Annual Responsible Investing Survey

Millennials are more interested in working for, buying from, and investing in companies that share their values than older generations, according to data collected by Nuveen for it’s Third Annual Responsible Investing Survey.

Nuveen worked with Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of over 1,000 affluent investors in June of 2017. The people surveyed were all US residents with over $100,000 in investable assets, and were working with a financial advisor at the time. 

Survey shows increased interest in social responsibility

The survey shows increased interest in social and environmental concerns in shopping, job, and investment decisions over the past two years.

The most recent results show 72% agree with the statement, “I prefer to shop for brands that have environmentally sustainable business practices,” up from 61% two years earlier. 

Sixty-four percent of respondents said, “I care more about having a positive impact on society than doing well financially,” which is up from 49% in 2015. 

This trend seems to be driven by millennials. Twenty-seven percent of the survey’s participants were millennials and between the ages of 21 and 34. There was a stark difference between the group of millennials surveyed compared to older participants regarding issues of social responsibility. 

millennialsurveyOver 90% of millennials said they would prefer to work for a company that has a positive social and environmental impact on the world, compared to 70% of non-millennials. 

Ninety-two percent of millennials said, “I care more about having a positive impact on society than doing well financially,” which is drastically higher than the 52% of non-millennials that agreed.

And millennials may not look at socially-responsible investing as just a compliment to their portfolio. According to Nuveen’s survey, 92% of high-net worth millennials are somewhat or very likely to put their entire allocation in responsible investment options. 

What makes millennials different?

Based on this research, it is clear that millennials feel differently about social responsibility than the generations before them. We asked some of our friends and colleagues at INSIDER, Inc. what has changed. The millennials we interviewed were not a part of the original survey conducted by Nuveen and would not necessarily be considered affluent investors. 

Some of the millennials we spoke to said that the biggest change was increased access to information. Kevin, 25, said, “If I want to know how climate change is affecting a marginalized group in a developing country, I can Google that and find out in 10 seconds.”

Dave, 33, adds, “The more stuff I read, the more issues I find out that I am interested in and want to pay attention to.”

A few millennials we spoke to mentioned how it easy it is to find out how companies treat their employees and customers.

Shayanne GalShayanne, 25, said that signaling on social media has made her and her friends take more personal responsibility for the brands they align themselves with.

With the rise of social media, I think it’s more and more important for us to be associated with brands and companies that share our same values and morals.” She continued, “I support brands, companies, that are able to make that positive social impact and allow me to be a part of that.”

Caitlin, 32, and Lauren, 23, both said what makes them more socially conscious than their grandparents is that their economic situation is more secure. Lauren said that her grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, so they had a tendency to hoard things just in case they needed them. Caitlin said her grandparents “were focusing more on a survival mode of purchasing,” whereas she has some financial security and has access to a lot more information. 

All of the millennials we spoke to for this piece said they would be willing to sacrifice financial gains — either by paying more for products, accepting a lower salary, and/or limiting their investment options — in order to have a positive impact on society.

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