Charting the Industry: PR Opportunity in Teens’ Green Leanings

U.S. teenagers feel they can do more to help the environment, and are looking to go beyond the classroom to learn more about environmental problems, finds a study released in July 2012 by digital imaging solutions company Canon U.S.A.

Which means brands should be interested in reaching this 14- to 18-year-old demographic to stoke even better results from future CSR campaigns.

It’s a thought not lost on Dave Stangis, VP of public affairs and corporate responsibility at Campbell Soup Company. “I’d like us to do more from a consumer standpoint,” says Stangis. Campbell does connect with its younger employees, getting them to engage in and volunteer for CSR initiatives, he adds.

In general, Stangis says the study findings reinforce what he feels anecdotally when speaking at schools and interacting with interns and his own kids. “It’s clear young people want to do more for the environment,” says Stangis.

Zafar Brooks, director, governmental affairs and diversity outreach at Hyundai, agrees with that observation. “Kids get it—they understand the responsibility we as humans have,” says Brooks, who adds that teenagers’ digital skills help them grasp global issues more quickly than past generations.

Brooks has seen young peoples’ interest in CSR interest firsthand, as Hyundai supports the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute internship program, which every year builds houses for the poor through Habitat for Humanity.


The kids’ concern for the environment is palpable. According to the Canon study, issues like deforestation and water shortages are on their minds (see chart for details). To help save the planet, the majority of 14- to 18-year-olds are willing to recycle (85%) and turn off unnecessary lights (85%) to help with environmental conservation, while nearly three in five would also be willing to spend less time in the shower (57%) and volunteer to help clean up public areas, such as a beach or a park (56%).

Then again, teens are teens: About half or fewer would be willing to lower their usage of heat (49%), carpool to school (49%), lower their usage of air conditioning (44%) or take public transportation to school (40%). So there’s clearly more education to be done.

The trouble is, the majority of teens (76%) in grades 6 to 12 say there are infrequent opportunities to learn about conservation in school. Therefore, 67% turn to TV to receive information about the environment.


Which leaves a large gap that could be filled by other sources—like corporate and nonprofit organizations. One company on the forefront of such education is Deloitte, whose Greening the Next Generation (GNG) initiative—launched in 2010—serves as an external environmental forum for young people.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is currently focused on a stay-in-school initiative that includes promoting classroom curriculum in science and math. “It’s the prep work that schools offer that’s important,” says Brooks. In addition, Hyundai’s ongoing fuel efficiency messaging cascades down to the teenager who is looking for their first car, says Brooks.

So the CSR education is coming along. Now, if we can only teach our kids to clean their rooms. PRN

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Dave Stangis,; Zafar Brooks,

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01