Millennials and Sustainable Development Goals

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 privatise profits and socialise losses, and a disconnected system that works on the economic logic of unlimited growth of organizations on a Planet of finite resources.

I believe the time is now for the transfer of power from the Baby Boomer plus generation to the Millennial Generation.

To prevent the inevitable collapse of our economic value system, we need this transfer of power to fundamentally redesign the system; upgrade the essence of economic logic, aligning it with natural laws, and engaging businesses worldwide to address with it.

millennialsBut 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 & conveners of the world?

To my knowledge, there is no publicly available information that answers key questions 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 do we still largely rely on Baby Boomer plus generation leaders?

What if we, the Millennials, ARE the upgraded version of humanity?

We Millennials are the fresh blood, new energy and creativity that Society and the Planet needs. We say “Baby Boomer plus generations – it’s time to STEP UP or move over”

As the great Sufi poet, Rumi, more eloquently instructs:


Who are we ‘Millennials’?

time_magazineMillennials are people who are currently less than 35 years old. 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 as yet a coherent bunch, 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.

And 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?

climate-changeThe IPCC (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 same amount of wealth as bottom 99% put together.

The total value of international trade, the actual exchange of goods and services amounts to only 1.4% of all foreign exchange transactions, and the overwhelming rest (98.6%) are purely speculative transactions from derivatives and monetary engineering that largely serves no useful social purpose.

So it’s not surprising that the top four priorities and challenges for us Millennials is 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 organisations 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 Action2015 time for 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 replaces the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) in September this year (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 exiting corporate, financial & regulatory reporting, listing & funding requirements.

The time is now to bring in the Millennials.

To ensure they can shepherd a future where we can all flourish in and be proud of. A future that focusses on the Planet, People, and Purpose – but not for the sake of Profit.

  1. I would like to see 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”. It would be their 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!

  2. I would also like to see at least ONE Millennial representative for all large NGO’s, Governments, and other International governance bodies such as the EU, UN, IMF etc. What if it was mandatory for every key country, forum and delegation to correspondingly have at least one such Millennial Leader? The government of Hungary, Wales & European Commission are already appointing a ‘Future Generations Commissioner’.

  3. I believe that proactively placing Millennials now, in positions of executive & strategic power – and holding them accountable to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals, will create the future we want.

The Millennial Generation is inheriting a damaged future. As the most tangible representatives of the future, the time is NOW to actively engage at the top in the key power structures of the present.

Following my TEDx talk at St Andrews University, where I talked about what I have just written here, I was contacted by a senior Executive in UN specifically responsible for the Sustainable Development Goals. They said that the question of how to involve the Millennials is foremost on everyone’s mind. And they invited me to join them.

So on Friday 12th June I will journey to Paris to discuss my integrated proposal of how to engage we Millennials worldwide to participate in the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Together, I believe we can manifest those “better conditions”, and create a ‘Green Economy on a Blue Planet’.

Share this post:
Back to all news

3 responses to “Millennials and Sustainable Development Goals”

  1. Excellent blog and post. Let me know how I can help.

  2. Amita Nandi says:

    Definitely, enough of talking and looking at the differences and commonalities, in the many gens at work today. The Millennials are the now and the future, let’s make way, let’s make it mandatory to have them in the roles of the BB’s+, we are at the losing end, all of us, if we take more time to wait and see if they are ready. No body is ever fully ready no matter what generation, let’s make way and step aside and that may be the ONLY thing needed for this amazing gen to take the lead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

back to top