The Sustainability Youth Deficit

Originally uploaded Mar 23, 2021

Not long after Oscar and I started up Future Shift, we soon realised that the current state of sustainability in business was a space dominated by those over 50 and, when it comes to sustainability we think that this presents a problem.

The voice for change often comes from those who are listened to least. The youth have stubbornly campaigned for years, utilising their social media niches to highlight the importance of addressing the global climate emergency.

Yet we live in a world where older consultants are often the voice of reason a CEO will turn to in their time of need. Whilst this consultant provides a wealth of experience that drowns a newbie’s CVs in comparison, is it not time that we started to listen to the younger generation’s a bit more to solve this increasingly difficult situation the ‘adults’ have gotten us all into?

After all it took Greta Thunberg who, at the age of 16, mobilised the progressive force of schoolchildren to turn people’s heads and start addressing the global climate crisis.

Younger generations are not just interested in having a seat at the table anymore, they want to set the table.

However, this requires a dramatic shift from the status quo…

The Divide

Climate change will affect us all differently. A 85 year old has a far smaller stake less in the future than a 15 year old school child – why should they care about what the world will be like in 50 years?

This divide in attitude is clearly reflected in a Yale study, that found that 73% of millenials said that global warming was personally important to them, compared to only 58% of the Silent generation. However when you consider that the average age of a CEO within the fortune 500 companies is 58 years old (Crist Kolder Associates.) and has increased by 11 years since 2005, it is a worrying trend that businesses may continue to have less incentive to drive the change we need.

Right: Yale study (2021); left: Crist Kolder Associates (2019)

The younger we are, one’s ability to change the course of the climate crisis increases, yet the older we are, our responsibility for the climate crisis also increases . This trade-off has caused a huge divide, with the youth calling for action and accountability whilst the older generations stick to the status quo or, at best, apply incremental changes in the name of damage limitation.

What Next?

Challenging times require challenging innovations, if the past 12 months and 3 days have taught us anything it is that we are all capable of adapting to quick change. Mobilising workforces through the virtual home office has become the norm and with that has come the imperative principle that many businesses need to utilise the right technology to overcome the virtual obstacles in their way.

“We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein.

This same principle is also crucial if businesses, the cogs of the economy, are to take action and frontier the sustainable movement of today. By using new technology and employing new ideas from young people we can implement real change, coincidentally we have just released our new online platform that can assist with this.