Younger Consumers Prefer Socially Conscious Retailers, Says Poll

Deck the hall with boughs of…sustainability and fair trade?

Retailers might want to consider adding more conflict-free and environmentally friendly flair to their stores if they want to attract more socially conscious shoppers under the age of 30 during the holiday rush.

Nearly 70 percent of consumers in that age demographic consider social issues before making a purchase, according to a recent survey by KPMG LLP, an audit, tax, and advisory firm.

The survey, based on a national probability sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, 18 years old or older taken from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10, also found that young shoppers are focused more on social issues when considering big-ticket purchases such as automobiles, computers, consumer electronics, and jewelry as opposed to everyday items such as gasoline, toys, and food. A combined 41 percent of customers under the age of 30 “always” or “frequently” consider social issues before buying a big-ticket item, as opposed to a combined 24 percent of the general population that “always” or “frequently” do the same.

“A lot of these campaigns around human rights and sustainability begin on college campuses,” said Jim Low, audit partner for KPMG LLP, in a statement. “It would fall within reason that younger people are more influenced by social issues when they shop. But a large percentage of mature consumers are also engaged in ethical consumption.”

However, according to the KPMG survey, just 16 percent of U.S. consumers have heard of the term conflict minerals. The good news is that conflict-mineral awareness was 75 percent higher among consumers under 30 than the general population.

“There are many jewelry companies out there that have caught on to ‘green washing’ their product, but these young and educated millennial consumers can definitely see through it,” says Lindsay Daunell, co-owner of D&H Sustainable Jewelers in San Francisco. “I think it’s great that more and more jewelers are becoming aware of the importance of sustainability in our industry, but in order to use it effectively as a marketing tool, you need to be able to back it up. Your heart has to be in it, and you have to be comfortable talking about a clear chain of custody with the client.”