WHU General

Social Commitment of Young Family Entrepreneurs

The new generation acts more strategically and impact-oriented

How is the youngest generation of family entrepreneurs in German-speaking countries involved when it comes to social commitment? Quite involved, a recent joint study by WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management and the non-profit analysis and consulting firm Phineo shows. For the study "Next Gens – zwischen Erbe und Idealismus" (engl.: Next Gens – between heritage and idealism), qualitative interviews were conducted with 40 young family entrepreneurs from companies of various sizes. Another 100 "next gens" answered questionnaires. The study shows that young family entrepreneurs are socially committed as a private person, through their family, or the family business, and that this involvement is very diverse in terms of topic, scope, and type. However, they particularly focus on social and ecological issues. Additionally, they take a much more strategic and impact-oriented approach than their predecessors.

The importance of family businesses can hardly be overestimated as they are the most widespread form of business, not only in Germany but also globally. Therefore, the social commitment of family entrepreneurs is of particular importance. Although next gens feel the need to get involved personally, they, according to the study, also feel “pressure from society.” If they do not use their privileged position to get involved or are reluctant to do so, there are reasons. Professor Nadine Kammerlander, Chair of Family Business at WHU, explains why, "Family ownership and the personal set of values enable next gens to initiate long-term improvements in their companies. A lack of time, expertise, and high expectations of themselves are the main reasons why some next gens have not found the right field of acitivity." 

Although the next gens often continue to support the causes their predecessors were supporting, they also set their own agendas. For them, topics such as climate, education, and systemic and global changes prevail. In addition, it is becoming increasingly important for the new generation of family entrepreneurs to align their company's core business and its impact. The fact that the company is family-owned means that issues such as sustainability, the promotion of charitable projects, and a positive working culture can be implemented independently and established in the long term.


About the study

A comprehensive article on the study (in German), titled “Jung, reich – und engagiert“, has been published by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on June 14, 2022. 

Please also find the full study (in German) for download here.