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People, Planet and Profit: Highlights from Bentley on Bloomberg
"Selfies" and social media have given the illusion to previous generations that today's twenty-somethings are egotistical and self-centered. But when it comes to professional priorities, this generation is holding companies more accountable for social responsibility efforts than any other before them—specifically, for a secular trinity of values Bentley University President Gloria Larson calls The Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profits (a phenomenon she wrote about in detail for Entrepreneur).
86% of #millennials want to work for companies that are socially responsible & #ethical. #prepareduTWEET THIS
Millennials place such importance on the social good ideals of The Triple Bottom Line that they're transforming workplaces and hiring practices of companies large and small. In fact, according to Bentley's PreparedU Project, 86 percent of millennials agree that it's a priority for them to work for companies that are socially responsible and ethical. This is particularly significant because there are 72 million millennials who will be the workforce majority by 2020.
"It's fully integrated for these kids," Larson said in a February 2015 Bloomberg Radio podcast. "[Millennials] think of their work life as being part and parcel of the rest of their life. For many of us from prior generations, we saw doing good things as being important, but we had to find the time for it outside of work. This is the generation that takes an employer at their word that they’re going to care about communities—they expect it to be part of the work they do."
In this series of podcasts from Bloomberg Radio, hear more from President Larson, professors and workplace experts, as they all weigh in on what drives millennials to want more social responsibility from all of their endeavors and employers.
Find out more about the Bentley on Bloomberg radio series.
A Pew Research study found that 21 percent of respondents 18 to 29 years old said helping others in need is one of the most important things in their life.
In fact, volunteer opportunities recently eclipsed salary as the number one job perk attractive to millennial hires, as well: 73 percent of millennials volunteered in 2013, and—despite unemployment hardships—87 percent of them donated money to charity.
In this Bloomberg Radio podcast, President Larson and sociology professor Jonathan White discuss Bentley's innovative Service-Learning Center, which prepares business students for corporate social responsibility in ways that play into their need to be good global citizens.
"[Service-learning] is a very powerful academic pedagogy," said White, who is the director of the Center. "It's a distinctive combination of business skill sets and liberal arts that is an imperative for today's workplace. When our students are being interviewed by potential employers, they aren't asking them about their accounting, finance, computer and business skills. They're asking about their civic skills, leadership, critical thinking skills and how they've applied them."
And this generation isn’t letting companies forget about the importance of giving back. They’ve had plenty of exposure to ethical lapses by corporations and the government during their formative years. According to Bentley's own PreparedU study, 95 percent of millennials said a company’s ethics are very important to them.
95% of #millennials value a company’s #ethics. #prepareduTWEET THIS
Bentley professor Cynthia Clark, who oversees the Institute for Corporate Governance and the Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility, believes that their extensive preparedness for deep ethical discussions has made millennials question the psychology of how people and companies can willingly participate in something they know is wrong.
In a Bentley on Bloomberg segment, Clark said she regularly asks her students if there are any careers or industries they would shy away from due to ethics. But "they're less interested in which industry they should avoid, than how they can bring an ethical compass to the industry in which they want to work."
Not only do millennials want to hold their employers accountable to their corporate social responsibility programs, 22 percent of the millennials surveyed in Bentley's PreparedU study said that they cared the most about a company’s policies toward the environment. And as one of the Princeton Review's top 10 environmentally responsible colleges, Bentley's Sustainability Office is no stranger to the growing needs of millennials and climate change.
22% of #millennials care the most about a company’s #environment policies, says #preparedu study.TWEET THIS
Read how the Sustainability Office is rethinking what it means to be green.
"We have over 140 employers at Bentley, and although we're a business university, more and more of those employers are coming from the NGO and nonprofit world, and more business students are looking for employers that represent this mindset," President Larson said when chatting with millennial expert David Burstein on Bloomberg Radio. "[Millennials want to work for] companies who are also doing good."
Learn the 4 Reasons Teaching Sustainability Matters to Our Economic Future.
“There’s a human level of sustainability and why we should care, but there’s a whole other business level,” said Cory Johnson, a Bloomberg Radio anchor, during a recent Bentley on Bloomberg show about sustainability.
Corporate #sustainability is part of the #success of our #business, says @EMCcorp #prepareduTWEET THIS
At EMC, “corporate sustainability is part of the everyday expectation of the business now; it’s a part of the success of our business,” said Alyssa Caddle, from the company’s Office of Sustainability.
According to the Governance & Accountability Institute, 75 percent of S&P companies published a sustainability or corporate responsibility report in 2014. This is an issue companies are prioritizing.
A Company Where Women Thrive, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is actively updating their corporate culture to meet the rapidly changing workplace needs of millennials, despite being a more than 100-year-old organization. PwC Human Talent Transformation Leader Ann Donovan sat down with President Larson and Bloomberg Radio to discuss the bottom line impact this has for a global company.
"Millennials want to know that we as a business have a purpose, that there's meaning to what we're doing and we're contributing to society. And they want to see it. They don't want just want rhetoric," Donovan said.
PwC has found a huge difference between employees who participate in a Corporate Responsibility activity and their engagement with the company: They stay with the firm a full year longer than those who don't. That simple one-year difference adds more than $25M to their bottom line.
“We take a team down to Belize to teach people financial literacy,” shared Donovan. “Of those that have gone to Belize, only 8 percent of those employees left the firm in the following year, versus twice that percentage of their peers."
The same holds true for companies that used to be able to get away with what President Larson calls "Cause Advertising," versus actual substance to their corporate social responsibility.
"We're not saying that all young people only want a job that's going to change the world. They want to feel that there's some impact in what they're doing—beyond just increasing the bottom line of that company," says Burstein. "Companies used to be able to get away by saying, ‘Oh, well we give $1 to breast cancer research.’ That's not enough anymore. It's not enough for millennial employees, and it's not enough for consumers."
For more on the effects that millennials and their push for transparency can have on corporate growth and bottom lines, read our coverage of how recent college grads are pushing for innovation from corporate food giants and why companies need more millennials on their boards.
More From Bentley on Bloomberg
For more on millennials and The Triple Bottom Line, listen to these Bentley on Bloomberg radio shows:
Check out more about the Bentley on Bloomberg radio series, including additional topics that have been discussed.
Melissa Massello is a journalist, editor, blogger, serial entrepreneur and former start-up executive who is passionate about issues facing women in business, modern workplace culture and urban communities. For the last seven years, she's served as the founding editor of Shoestring, a modern online lifestyle magazine covering personal finance, budget living and consumer interest stories of importance to Gen X and Gen Y. A Boston native, she currently resides in Austin. Follow her on Twitter at @melissamassello.
Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.