Winning Over Millennials

On June 14, 2019, in News, Slideshow-Homepage, by Ashkin Group

The professional cleaning industry has been finding it difficult to attract younger people into its ranks. In decades past, this was not so difficult as we will discuss later.  But for as solid and essential as the industry is to our entire economy, it just does not carry the same mystique and excitement as, for instance, the budding artificial intelligence industry or related technology industries.

Further, years ago, there were a lot more mom-and-pop distributorships and manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry. As the older generation retired, the younger generation stepped in to take over the business. In many cases, it was as if the younger generation had been waiting to jump in. Now many of those smaller companies have been absorbed into far larger organizations and corporations. The mom-and-pop atmosphere is gone, and with it, the kids.

So what steps can the industry take to interest Millennials? One powerful step is something we have touched on before, but new research indicates just how important it is to this younger generation. To recruit Millennials, companies must recognize how important they view sustainability and climate change. According to Madeleine Cuff, a senior reporter for a publication called BusinessGreen, if she were to take a straw poll of just about everyone she knows in her age group, “climate change will be up there as one of the big issues they care about.”

This has been supported by a number of recent studies and surveys. For instance:

  • A study in March 2018 by the Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of all U.S. Millennials believe there is substantial evidence of global warming and attribute this to human activity. Further, the center says this is the first generation in which this viewpoint is so widely shared.1
  • Later that year, Pew conducted another study, this time investigating whether Republican Millennials differ from older Republicans when it comes to sustainability, climate change, and related environmental issues. This study found what the researchers called a “significant divide” between older and younger party members. A full 36 percent of the Republican Millennials who participated in the study believe the earth is warming and it is due mainly to human activity. Further, 45 percent say they see the impact of climate change in their communities, whereas only about one-third of the older party members say they are witnessing such changes.2
  • Adding to the mix, an MIT study reported that Millennials identify themselves as “climate-conscious,” with most believing they care about the environment far more than earlier generations.

However, one study, just recently reported, really hits home when it comes to attracting Millennials into the workplace. Apparently sustainability, climate change, and the environment are so important to Millennials that 75 percent of the younger people surveyed said they would be willing to take as much as a 10 percent pay cut—up to $10,000 in annual salary—to work for a company that has a strong sustainability plan and has taken significant steps to be more environmentally responsible.3

The study, which was conducted by Swytch, a blockchain-based energy platform,* also reported that fewer than 25 percent of Gen Xers (now between 40 and 53 years old) would make this change; that number drops to 17 percent for baby boomers.

As to why these younger people view sustainability and climate change as so important, it comes down to one thing. For the past 30 years, we have been talking about climate change and the need to be more sustainability-focused. However, it was often viewed as a distant threat, and in several cases, people expressed doubts it would ever arrive. Today, younger people are seeing it happen now and believe this will become more evident, even scarier, during their lifetimes.

So how can our industry attract these younger people—who, by the way, tend to be very well educated, highly productive, often passionate about their jobs, and, something that can be a big plus in business, willing to take risks? The answer is that our industry must continue to provide what they are looking for in an employer and an entire industry: one that is sustainability-focused—with the technology and data to validate what they say they are accomplishing—and taking action to address climate change and protect our environment. That will be a big step forward.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Green cleaning and sustainability, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC, for measuring and monitoring sustainability with the goal of protecting natural resources and reducing facility operating costs. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF). He can be reached at

1 Joseph Coughlin, “Greener Than You: Boomers, Gen X & Millennials Score Themselves on the Environment,” Forbes, May 5, 2018,

2 Cary Funk and Meg Hefferson, “Many Republican Millennials Differ with Older Party Members on Climate Change and Energy Issues,” Pew Research Center, May 14, 2018,

3.Gary Guthrie, “Survey Says Millennials Would Take a Pay Cut to Work for an Environmentally Conscious Company,” Consumer Affairs, Feb. 2, 2019.


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