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Social media and sustainability.

Social media teaching sustainability better than schools

Younger generations are relying more on social media than schooling for their education on sustainability issues. 51% of Gen Z and 44% of Gen Alpha rely on social media – not schooling – as the primary source of their education on sustainability issues. Across all generations, social media is trusted less as a source for sustainability knowledge than television news and schooling, according to a report by consultancy EY in collaboration with NGO youth organisation JA Worldwide.

However, social media is trusted less as a source for sustainability knowledge than television news and schooling across all generations. More than a quarter of both Gen Z and Gen Alpha list schools and teachers as the top source from which they want more sustainability knowledge, the report shows.

The survey included more than 1,200 respondents across generations from 72 countries in the Americas, EMEIA and Asia-Pacific regions. Gen Z, born 1995 – 2009, described as the first digital native generation while Gen Alpha, born 2010 – now, is the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world.

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The survey found school systems could do more to help younger generations understand the importance of sustainability and take positive action by providing more workshops and hands-on classroom learning”, EY says.

“The survey found that younger generation respondents believe they have a deeper knowledge of global sustainability issues than older generation respondents. Almost a quarter of Gen Alpha respondents reported being either very or extremely aware of global environmental practices, compared with 10% of Gen X respondents and just 4% of baby boomer respondents.”

All generations surveyed said they were willing to take steps to combat climate change, such as eating less meat, recycling or choosing to reduce air travel. 

However, younger generation respondents lagged other generation respondents in their preparedness to act. Gen X (64%) and millennials (65%) were “extremely” or “very” willing to make changes in their daily life to be more sustainable, while less than half of Gen Alpha respondents (43%) and Gen Z respondents (44%) were prepared to make the same commitment, EY reports.

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Organizations of all types – from governments and corporations to NGOs and educators – must be ready to work together to elevate the environmental literacy of young people. Co-ordinated actions to improve education and training, designed in a way that engages these new generations, will be critical for building a more sustainable world”, says Julie Linn Teigland, EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner, says

82% of Gen Alpha respondents and 76% of Gen Z respondents said they believe education plays a critically important role in helping them lead more sustainable lives. 

Key facts:

  • Only 56% of Gen Alpha and 45% of Gen Z were satisfied with the sustainability education they received in school.
  • 30% of all generations ranked social media as their most prevalent source for information about sustainability, especially for Gen Z and Gen Alpha
  • 50% of all the respondents, across generations, pointed to the cost of achieving a sustainable lifestyle as the primary barrier for increased sustainability. They also said the lack of tangible sustainability knowledge is the next biggest barrier.
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