Combatting climate change is a top priority for millennials and Generation Z around the globe. They are a climate force to be reckoned with, and companies must pay close attention when flexing their climate muscles. They are the consumers, employees, employers, and future leaders who will see the devastating effects of climate change.
Teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s ”school strike for the climate” has grown into a global movement that has brought more than 10 million people onto the streets to demand action for climate change.
All over the world, millennials and Generation Z carry on their fight for a better climate. Let me share a few examples with you:
In Germany, climate activists Lea Bonasera and Henning Jeschke, both part of the Last Generation group, staged a hunger strike in the run-up to Germany’s general election, demanding more urgent policies from Berlin.
In Uganda, a rising star among the world’s climate activists, Vanessa Nakata, began a solitary strike against inaction on the climate crisis. To start with, she was the only protester outside the Parliament of Uganda. Then, other young people joined her, and she ended up founding the Africa-based Rise Up Movement.
At the COP26 climate summit, she urged politicians, corporations and banks to move from talk to action on climate change.
“Show us your trustworthiness. Show us your honesty”, Ms. Nakate said.
The voices of Thunberg, Bonasera, Jeschke, and Nakate reverberate across the world and reflect the strong sentiments of a young generation demanding a clean, green future.
For the last decade, we have been tracking the careers of millennials and Generation Z. These are generations who want to make a change. Many identify themselves as activists, and half of those recognize their activism as an essential part of their identity.
It’s their top priority
This years’ survey results show that millennials and Gen Z’s top concerns are climate change and unemployment. They are more concerned about these issues than, for example, healthcare, disease prevention, and sexual harassment. In addition, previous surveys have shown us that one out of five millennials believe business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance. Instead, they should positively impact society and the environment.
Millennials and Gen Z channel their energies toward meaningful action, such as increasing political involvement and aligning career choices with their values. In turn, they expect institutions like businesses to do more to help bring about their vision of a better future. The Millennial and Gen Z generations strongly believe business must have a purpose beyond profit. They want to work for ‘conscious capitalism,’ employers committed to integrity and inclusion, and join companies and organizations that positively impact the world.
Your best and biggest allies
How do you make a vital purpose go hand in hand with a strong company culture? Firstly, you must recognize that there is a culture. And it’s at all levels of the organization. Understanding and changing culture is a long and complicated process, but it’s possible and it’s well worth the effort. When it comes to the Millennial and Gen Z generations, they talk and walk the walk. If you show trustworthiness and honesty and do it right on these issues, they can be your biggest champions in building a resilient, responsible business.
Helena Barton is a Partner and anthropologist with 20 years’ international experience in helping organizations make good strategic decisions with complex environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in mind. She has helped a range of global companies and financial institutions build out and integrate their governance, measurement and disclosure of risks and impacts related to climate change, human rights, labour rights, diversity and inclusion, supply chain compliance and other Sustainability / ESG issues. She is a recognized expert in non-financial reporting, serving on several advisory councils within the sustainability accounting profession, and she is the current Chair of GRI's Independent Appointments Committee. Helena is a member of Deloitte's global and regional Sustainability Services leadership teams. She is a regular speaker on e.g. climate risk and private capital finance for the Sustainable Development Goals, incl. at the World Economic Forum in 2018-2019. Visit Helena's blog on Climate & Sustainability here.