Guest Contribution

Sustainable Development Goals: Time to bring in the Millennials

We are inheriting an economic value system where we value more a dead fish over a live one, a dead tree over a forest, sick people over healthy ones, war and threats of war over peace. An economic value system where we privatize profits and socialize losses, and a disconnected system that works on the economic logic of unlimited growth of organizations on a planet of finite resources.

The decisions being made today have impact on the future of the younger generation. But here’s the problem: How many Millennials hold formal-decision making roles in the key power structures today?

In the parliaments, cabinets and embassies worldwide? In the boardrooms of global public listed companies and institutional investors? In the top leadership tiers of UN, IMF, World Bank, Bank of International Settlements and significant non-profits? To my knowledge, there is no publicly available information on Millennial Leadership and Influence.

This blind spot highlights many inherent patronizing assumptions of the current system; most importantly it shows the youth are not even being envisioned as current top leaders, but rather simply as objects to be managed and to be sold stuff to.

When you walk into a shop to buy a device specifically to conduct and manage your 21st century life most effectively, which one would you choose?

A 1984 Macintosh or the latest laptop? 1973 Motorola hand held prototype or the latest IPhone/Android? Unless you are building a vintage collection, of course each of us would choose the later. Yet, when it comes to leading our organizations, communities and nations effectively, why don’t we choose Millennials? What if Millennials are the upgraded version of humanity?

Who are ‘Millennials’?

Millennials are those of us born after 1980. We are arguably the most ‘written about’ and the most ‘researched on’ generation ever.

We are either labeled as the best or the worst of the generations. There is nothing in between about us.

The Time magazine quoted us a ‘ME-ME-ME’ generation – a lazy, entitled narcissist tribe. And another study called us ‘Generation WE’ – a spiritual, tech savvy, responsible, and tolerant clan. Technology is enabling the convergence of this ‘ME-WE gap’ exponentially.

Although millennials in developed and developing nations are not yet a coherent bunch, as our respective means and cultural upbringing have shaped us diversely, the essence that binds us all is that we are hungry to learn, we’re keen to experiment, we don’t follow the norms and trends set by the previous generations (largely), we believe in entrepreneurship and collective action. And above all we want to have an impact.

By 2020, we will form 50% of the global workforce and thereby will be the largest consumer class. In a nutshell, we represent a new era of talent and I guess no one argues that sheer numbers make us a powerful force for change.

So what sort of world are we Millennials entering into?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed that human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed across all continents and oceans. Society as we know it, is consuming the very foundations of our existence at a rate faster than the planet can replenish.

We have a global economic system that was formed by a primitive and maladaptive worldview that puts fulfilling short-term desires/requirements over the responsibility to the collective wellbeing of all living beings and our planetary ecosystem.

We live in a world of unparalleled economic wealth, and yet its distribution is more skewed than ever before in the history of man. The top 1% owns the same amount of wealth as the bottom 99% put together.

Correspondingly, research shows the top 4 priorities and challenges for us Millennials are Planet, People, Purpose and Profit.

First & foremost, planet: An overwhelming number of Millennials worldwide consider environmental protection, addressing climate change, resource scarcity and biodiversity loss as their no.1 priority.

Second, people: inequality of income & wealth and unemployment are the next concerns many Millennials raise.

Third, purpose: personal & professional development, coaching & learning are important for more than 50% of the Millennials. They also have a preference to work with organizations that are ethical and transparent.

And finally, profit: this is of little priority to most Millennials globally. It is only considered important in as far as it sustains their cost and standard of living.

And we all concur; profit just for its sake has got us where we are. And profit at this cost is simply not profit, it is loss!

A Call to Action

The complex global challenge that we currently face can only be resolved when we all anchor our actions to a common vision and goal. And the good news is that the base architecture to get us in to a sustainable state already exists.

The UN General Assembly announced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. Seventeen action-oriented universally applicable goals to address a various issues, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

Aligning with the SDGs & direct responsibility for their attainment needs to be urgently incorporated into the existing corporate, financial & regulatory reporting, listing & funding requirements.

The time is now to bring in the Millennials.

What if it was mandatory to have at least one Millennial representative holding a place on the board and key committee of every public & large private institution – with the primary role to serve as the “Chief Millennial Sustainability Officer” with the responsibility to align the company strategy and action with the Sustainable Development Goals and to be the conduit to ensure the long-term sustainability of the planet, people and the business, in that order!

Similarly, to have at least one Millennial representative for all large NGOs, Governments, and other international governance bodies such as the EU, UN, IMF etc. For example the Governments of Hungary and Wales have appointed a ‘Future Generations Commissioner’.

I believe that proactively placing Millennials now, in positions of executive & strategic power – and holding them accountable to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, will create the future we want. We are inheriting a damaged future and so as the most tangible representatives of the future, the time is now to make necessary policy change to actively engage and involve us in making decisions.

Darshita Gillies

Darshita Gillies is a chartered accountant, coach and consultant, global system integrator, and entrepreneur. After working with board directors of India’s largest foreign bank, Standard Chartered, she re-trained as a leadership coach, consultant & facilitator, working with high performers, senior executives, organizations and entrepreneurs globally including through intensive developmental ‘Immersion’ journeys/’Purpose’ Quests. She also co-founded Blu-Dot – a global-system integration service provider enabling world leaders, institutions and systems to address complex business and social challenges in more sustainable, conscious, and strategic ways.

You can listen to her integrated proposal of how to engage Millennials worldwide to participate in the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals by specifically appointing Millennials as ‘Minister/ Chief of the Future’ – someone who can look at what is to come and what we are going to do.

 Featured photo by Aikawa Ke


Posted by Future Justice on 25 January 2016

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