The sustainability generation: Why do Generation Z care about this planet?

Generation Z, those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are not shy of speaking their truth and making their mark when it comes to their concerns about sustainability.


When it comes to sustainability, many Generation Zers share a common characteristic – they care deeply about protecting the environment. In this blog, Ulster University Business School’s Sustainability Engagement and Communications Assistant, Robyn Simpson, reflects on why addressing climate change is a key priority among this generation.

Generation Z, those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are not shy of speaking their truth and making their mark when it comes to their concerns about sustainability.

From demanding action for climate change from those in power to making eco-conscious decisions on where they spend their money or what type of company they work for, this generation is driven by changing the world for the better. In a survey carried out by Amnesty International (2019) amongst 10,000 young people, climate change was the most commonly cited issue facing the world.

Gen Z is aware of the impact that climate change has on the earth and are willing to adapt their behaviour accordingly in order to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle and ensure the future integrity of the planet. According to a survey from the University of Bath (2019), 41% of young people aged 16-25 said they were hesitant to have children due to climate change, and 71% said their future is frightening.

When it comes to shopping, Gen Z have been noted to value the importance of sustainability in all aspects of their life. This was evidenced by recent research data from Mintel stating that around 70% of 16 to 19 year olds agree that sustainability is an influential factor when purchasing fashion items, which was significantly higher than that of Baby Boomers.

Generation Z are not only passionate about this planet and willing to take action but they are also keen to voice their concerns.
Eimear Rafferty (18) is a prime example of a Generation Z’er willing to express her views on climate change. Recently, at the Sustain Exchange Summit in Belfast, Eimear Rafferty, Northern Ireland’s Young Climate Ambassador to COP-26 in Glasgow, was one of the keynote speakers who expressed feelings of frustration, eco-anxiety, and disheartenment on behalf of young people about the challenges facing the future of our climate. However, she also believed that all hope is not yet lost, and that by taking a participatory approach where both consumers and companies alike focus on their fight against climate change a positive impact could be made.

When asked about the event, Eimear commented,

"I hope to see many more events like this, and I encourage everyone to get involved in any way possible. Involve the young people in these events too; all generations must cooperate together!".


Inspiring words from Eimear which resonated deeply with our Ulster University Business School (UUBS) students, who were asked about the importance of sustainability.

One student, Claire Maitland (BSc Business Studies) said,

"It can be quite frustrating to think about the future we may have if we continue to allow businesses to directly contribute to the problems we are finding solutions for, it feels like a vicious cycle, but it has to end, they need to be held accountable."

Another UU student, Sarah-Louise Small (BSc Communications, Advertising and Marketing) added,

"We all must do our bit or change will never happen, we need to erase this attitude of an eco-conscious gesture being too small to make a difference."

As a business school we value the importance of not only educating the next generation of learners to take sustainability seriously but believe it is vital to support businesses in understanding how best to adopt and adapt sustainable practices within their business.
However, while students recognise the important role they play in leading change and promoting these values, they also believed businesses should be challenged to consider their actions and their impacts on the climate.

As UUBS’s Sustainability Engagement and Communications Assistant (Placement Student), I have prepared several tips to encourage students to act more sustainably:

  • 1. Stop giving in to fast fashion
  • 2. Use an ethical bank that does not finance fossil fuels
  • 3. Eat less processed and more organic foods

These are just some things young people today can do to help provide a future for themselves, their loved ones, and their community. If we can help support students or businesses in achieving sustainable practices, please feel free to contact us at r.simpson@ulster.ac.uk