Environmental concern and activism remaining powerful concerns for U.S. consumers. A survey of U.S. consumers ages 18 to 65 by consumer products data and analytics provider GfK found that 53 percent of them are more concerned about the environment today than they were a year ago.

The concerns of younger consumers, age 18 to 35, have grown the most over the past year (60 percent) compared to a 40-percent increase among those in the 50-to-65 age bracket. In addition, 56 percent of the younger group say that the social justice protests of 2020 inspired them to embrace environmental causes—compared to 43 percent of all Americans and just 24 percent of the older age segment.

When asked why brands support environmental causes, four in 10 (41 percent) 18-to-35-year-old consumers say they believe the brands have only altruistic motives. Another 36 percent of these young Americans say brands have a mix of altruistic and financial reasons—while just 23 percent believe that companies are only in it for the money.

Younger consumers also have very different sources of environmental news. Over seven in 10 (73 percent) say they have noticed more green news stories on social media in the past year—double the proportion for the older group (37 percent). In contrast, Americans age 50 to 65 say they have been seeing more coverage of the environment on TV news.

When it comes to the causes brands should support, recyclable packaging, avoiding plastic waste and reducing pollution all rank high with U.S. consumers. The 18-to-35 age group, however, is above average when it comes to issues such as recycling/reselling and use of electric delivery vehicles.

"For young adults in the U.S., sustainability remains an important issue and is part of an interconnected-web of causes that they see as urgent and compelling," says Tim Kenyon, vice president at GfK Consumer Life. "The pandemic and social justice causes have meshed with growing worries about climate change, leading young adults to see themselves both uniquely vulnerable and empowered. More young adults are following in the footsteps of previous generations of activists, who considered the delicate relationship between environmental justice and social progress and vice-versa. And while these Americans may be more trusting of brands and news sources, companies should not interpret this as carte blanche to take green causes straight to the bank. Authenticity and true investment in whatever causes brands embrace remain essential."