The kids say “stay woke” – but the expectation for businesses to say and do the right thing knows no age.

Read our full report on Corporate Activism.

Unsurprisingly, corporate response to social, political, and environmental conflict has a larger appeal to younger audiences, but older audiences have their own appetite.

In a politically turbulent year, 42% of the public believe corporations should take a stand on political issues, with Gen Z and Baby Boomers on the opposite ends of the spectrum. More than half (55%) of Gen Z say yes, while only 33% of Boomers say yes.

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But how these expectations translate into brand interactions can be counterintuitive. When asked, “How likely is your behavior to change if a company took a stand on a political issue that is in opposition to your personal views?”

While Gen Z has the highest expectations, 63% say they would remain neutral or are unsure and only 19% saying they would make a definite change. In contrast, 36% Boomers state that they would make a behavior change.

The older the respondent, the more likely they are to commit to a behavior change in the name of voting with their dollar.

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Changing purchasing behavior can be complex, and potentially easier for older generations. Gen Z just arrived in the workforce, limiting their earning potential and accessibility to different goods and services. Their high volume of neutrality and uncertainty can be attributed to their learning process. If their birthdays aligned up just so, the oldest of Gen Z has only voted in two election cycles.

Changing purchasing behavior might be a luxury they can’t quite afford yet, especially as they are discovering what their opposing values are. 

In contrast, Boomers are much more certain: 67% of Boomers prefer corporation not take a political stance and 36% intend to change their behavior toward a company taking an opposing political position. With more purchasing power and more political experience, Boomers feel more confident in this kind of decision.

This generational divide can make navigating political conflict tricky from a corporate perspective, but don’t let it scare you from saying and doing the right thing. Lead with action and communicate your efforts to earn the long-term benefits on reputation.

RepTrak ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) analytics reflect public perception of performance against 17 factors, including considerations like sustainability, talent management, diversity, and ethical governance – the perfect tool for understanding corporate activism efforts and political involvement.

Consumers are significantly more likely to purchase from and trust a company with a high ESG score. In fact, ESG is the most powerful indicator in determining whether or not the public is willing to trust a company and give it the benefit of the doubt.

Business is no longer strictly business. To navigate this new landscape, it’s helpful to use a tool like RepTrak to track reputation in near real time, monitoring how your corporate activism efforts and communication impact your reputation and ESG perception and ensuring which efforts are having the right impact.

Listen to your audience and act earnestly.