Dubbed ‘the Sustainable Generation’ because they have grown up with issues like environmental protection and social responsibility as a constant feature in their lives, this new generation describes itself as knowledgeable about sustainability and confident in what they will do in the future to address it.
These young business leaders are also sending a clear message to HR directors about the importance of sustainability credentials to their own career plans. In Sky’s survey, 34% of respondents see creating social and environmental value as an overall career goal, just 1 percentage point behind earning personal financial rewards.
However, despite their drive towards embedding sustainability into business, they have mixed views about how the current crop of corporate leaders are faring. Just three per cent believe UK businesses are succeeding in their efforts to integrate sustainability.
Their views are hardly surprising in this respect. There seems to be an awful lot of announcements by organisations about their intentions, but far less comparable evidence of of concrete achievements. When the best example of a UK business walking the walk, talking the talk remains M&S with Plan B, that’s really not good enough, is it?
May be it’s just the general appetite for climate change and sustainability-led issues. Certainly, as the national newspaper and broadcast media coverage of Durban, has shown climate change is no longer front-page news. It’s not even page seven. Al Gore has made it his mission to make Americans treat climate change as a priority. What does that mean in real terms? To make it a top ten issue. Right now, it’s nowhere near. For example, more than half of Tea Partiers do not believe in man-made climate change. So much for sustainable generation on that side of the great pond!
UK future leaders, however, are a more certain and ready to lead bunch if Sky’s survey is to be believed. 70% agree that sustainability can create new opportunities for business. And the despite the woes of the economy, 68% believe that it should not be an excuse for businesses to ignore sustainability.
The Sky survey raises questions about the quality and quantity of sustainability training provided by business schools and businesses. Just over a third of the 750 graduate trainees, middle-managers and MBA students polled do not believe that their employers are providing adequate levels of training or education on sustainability. For many current MBA students dedicated tuition on sustainability does not feature significantly in their business courses.
Yet despite all of this they are optimistic because they feel that the business case for sustainability cannot be ignored, and with much of the groundwork (in the area) being tackled by today’s leaders, they are confident that they will be able to go much further themselves. In this latter respect, the sustainable generation has a ‘five-point plan’ to go further than their predecessors in integrating sustainability when at the helm of the UK’s businesses. This plan includes collaborating across industry to share best practice; taking more responsibility for supply chain sustainability credentials; integrating sustainability into values and decisions; using new technology to improve business performance on sustainability; and improving employee engagement.