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Agencies and web accessibility: Corporate social responsibility in the time of Gen Z
March 15, 2022
A company’s public image is more important than ever during the time of Gen Z. For agencies, this means an increased demand for web accessibility.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Whereas in 2011 only 20% of companies on the S&P 500 index published a CSR report, by 2019 it had shot up to 90%.
But what is CSR, what accounts for its rise in prominence, and what does it signify for web agencies?
What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility means that businesses are not just in charge of creating value for shareholders, they also need to benefit the society in which they operate.
Although the concept is decades old, it has come to the fore lately due to growing concern for issues like climate change, ethical labor practices, income inequality, and inclusivity.
Businesses and agencies naturally want to appear in tune with the public’s values and are often quick to advertise being so. But the days of empty rhetoric and posturing are coming to a close thanks to the unprecedented level of information today’s tech-savvy customers enjoy.
A quick internet search can often determine whether a company’s corporate social responsibility practices are truly reflected beyond the veneer of ad copy.
And so while more businesses and agencies are joining the chorus of trumpeting their virtues to the public, wary customers are demanding authenticity and are increasingly demonstrating a willingness to inquire and take action accordingly. This is especially true for the latest generation coming to age, Gen Z.
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z commonly refers to anyone born during the period of 1996-2012. Incredibly, Gen Z makes up over 20% of the global population and will represent more than a quarter of the workforce in just three years' time.
Unlike Millennials, who witnessed the dawn of the internet as we know it, Gen Z was born straight into it. They live in an increasingly hyper-connected world through social media and have always enjoyed immediate access to virtually unlimited information.
Gen Z and Millenials together form the largest global generation, comprising 64% of the world’s global population.
With this cohort entering their prime spending years and Baby Boomers starting to retire, companies need to adjust their marketing strategies and business practices.
To appeal to Gen Z, which is more engaged in social justice than any other previous generation, businesses need to have a stauncher commitment to genuine CSR, and notably inclusivity.
The future is inclusive
Far more than governance or environmental issues, Gen Z cares most about social issues, in particular inclusivity.
76% of Gen Zs polled felt that companies should embrace diversity and inclusion practices, compared to 72% for Millennials, 63% for Gen X, and 46% for Baby Boomers.
94% of Gen Zs would buy from a company that has an excellent CSR program, and 84% would give that company the benefit of the doubt in the event of a crisis.
Finally, as 73% of Gen Zs stated that they would pay more for sustainable products, one can extrapolate that this would apply equally to the products and services from inclusive businesses.
Inclusivity is, therefore, a priority for businesses of all sizes.
What does it mean to be inclusive?
Inclusion policies focus on integrating and serving people with a diverse array of characteristics, including gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability.
For people with disabilities, this includes among others those with vision problems, cognitive impairments, motor difficulties, and learning difficulties.
Astoundingly, over 1 billion people globally experience a recognized disability, and in countries where the life expectancy is over 70, people will spend 11.5% of their lifespan with a disability.
In addition to hiring and representing people with disabilities, business needs to ensure that their products and services are accessible to them. Not only because it’s naturally the right thing to do, but because, together with family, people with disabilities boast an immense annual disposable income of $6.9 trillion.
For online businesses, this means making sure their websites are usable for people with disabilities (“web-accessible”) and compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is increasingly mandated and enforced by law.
Why web agencies are key players
With Gen Z more willing and able to publicly shame and switch brands than previous generations, business must become truly inclusive. And not just to maximize sales, build stronger customer relationships, expand the customer base, and enhance profit margins, but because it is the right thing to do.
Since web agencies create a significant portion of business websites, it is within their power to drive change and ensure their clients’ assets are accessible and compliant. Indeed, 92% of business owners expect it.
Moreover, It is beneficial for agencies to offer web accessibility. It generates additional revenue streams, creates a competitive advantage, and improves website performance by boosting user experience and dwell times while decreasing bounce rates.
Fortunately, making a website accessible is no longer a complex operation. Thanks to AI-powered solutions, web accessibility can be automated, scalable, and affordable for businesses of all sizes.
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