Gen Z are socially conscious and quick to point out businesses that do not align their rhetoric with action. Rob Kitchen, Vice President, Edelman DXI, explains why listening to these influential young voices is imperative in uncertain times.

Many of us have added the cost-of-living crisis to a long list of concerns, particularly so in the Western World. From geopolitical conflict to climate crisis and demands for a more equitable society, it feels like we are in a new era of upheaval on a level not experienced since the 1960s.

Indeed, a lot of the images and slogans that characterized that watershed decade resonate again today. Similarly, in the 1960s, young people were often the activists, calling out societal leaders and pushing for change. The ways and means of pushing have proliferated since then, but, yet again, younger generations are often the most passionate driving force.

As we support businesses through these challenging times, listening to and bringing young voices to the fore is imperative. In line with this need, the Edelman Trust Barometer now includes the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of young teenagers as part of our 20,000-plus 14-country global study. Its findings have important implications to help businesses stay relevant, trusted and in step with the heightened expectations most of us now place on them at a time when trust in institutions such as government and media continue to trend concerningly downwards.

The report explores the extent to which different generations are ‘belief driven’ when it comes to brand consideration, purchase and advocacy. Given belief-based drivers are particularly strong among young generations, businesses that do not stay in tune with those beliefs (and how they should reflect this in company strategy and action) are exposed to considerable risk.

Younger generations are both the most switched on to multiple news sources, and also the most prolific curators of opinion. They are quick to spot and call out businesses who do not back up rhetoric with significant action. This is a real warning sign for businesses given the extent of influence that we see younger generations having on their older counterparts.

Just as younger generations were a key force for change in the 1960s, listening to and involving them in business decisions is an important element for every institution to navigate through this challenging new era and co-create a better way ahead.

Takeaways from this research into the influence of Gen Z include:

Our feed-first world creates a new sense of urgency

Respondents are more concerned about the future of their country (68%) than their own future (63%).

An urgency for brand action Impacts buying choice

Respondents say brand responses to societal events – including the pandemic (48%), climbing inflation (42%), climate change (32%), and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (29%) – have impacted their brand choices in recent years more than personal life events (20%).

The last chance generation

Gen Z is fighting for the future. But they are not paralyzed by fear – it motivates them to make change. As shown in the 2021 The Power of Gen Z report, 70% of Gen Z say they are involved in a social or political cause.

Gen Z’s gravitational pull

Gen Z wields tremendous influence over older generations, with global respondents saying Gen Z influences what they buy (avg of 58% across several items) and how they support causes (52%). Gen Z also influences workplace culture (63%, among employees) and financial behavior (52%)

Dominating the infrastructure of influence

69% of adult Gen Z (age 18–26) creates or shares online content on at least a weekly (39%) or even daily (30%) basis, out-producing and outsharing other age groups.

For more detail see the Brand Trust Barometer special report ‘Cascade of influence’, available at