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Supporting the next generation of climate and sustainability leaders

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Multiple studies have explored the main issues the next generation will face, and climate change appears at or near the top every time. Climate change concerns have become a priority, and this is why so many younger people are focused on the global environmental movement, aiming to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and explore alternative ways to protect our planet.

With the commitment and passion the next generation has for environmental and sustainability issues, EY and JA Worldwide have partnered to educate and upskill students via innovative sustainability projects. The two companies launched a survey exploring our opinions on the opportunities available. The report discussed current engagement levels, future action plans and their thoughts toward strengthening sustainability education. The groups discovered that while the younger generation may be more informed on environmental and sustainability issues than previous generations, they still demand additional learning and training opportunities. 

Young people are looking towards companies to show a positive impact towards climate action. Young people expect to work and interact with businesses that share their values and are motivated by resources and information from organisations they trust. Attracting and retaining talent depends on companies adapting and embracing sustainability and environmental action. 

Young people expect education to emphasise sustainability, integrate current challenges and display ways to capture critical skills. As the next generation works through education, they believe sustainability should be at the core of their learning programs. Government groups and NGOs must be willing to reduce the gap between the business and educational world. The next generation expects all businesses to collaborate on sustainability plans, create new ideas and reduce their carbon impact. 

Tackling climate change requires all stakeholders to prioritise education and sustainability solutions for the next generation. The global environmental and sustainability movement has accelerated as businesses, governments, and other relevant organisations respond to the increasing demands from associated stakeholders.

In the last few years, more organisations have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions. As the next generation enters the workforce, companies will look to incorporate them into sustainability projects. These are groups who have grown up and witnessed the climate and sustainability agenda and how it has evolved and been embedded in business and society.

As policies and science have progressed, sustainability has shifted to the core of business discussions. There are numerous challenges for businesses to determine how to engage with these new groups and support the scale of change required to incorporate sustainability and build trust for the future.

Expanding environmental and sustainable literacy

The survey showed that only 56% of Gen Alpha and 45% of Gen Z were happy with the level of sustainability education offered in school. These results with sustainability education indicate an opportunity for businesses looking to engage the future workforce. Considering the younger generation has shown a desire to learn more about sustainability, they have welcomed the chance to participate in development programs that strengthen their sustainability skills.

The survey discovered that 30% of all generations highlighted social media as their main source of information about sustainability. At the same time, all groups stated that social media was not their trusted source of information. To tackle this information challenge companies must explore ways to highlight information from trusted sources. 

Gen Z and Gen Alpha continue to show concerns about the climate challenge and their enthusiasm toward building a more sustainable future. Converting this focus into decisive action requires a concerted effort from businesses and society and delivering the necessary skills to tackle sustainability challenges.

All organisations face a significant challenge in tackling future climate issues, but this will only become harder without creating and supporting the necessary skills, talent and energy of the next wave of workforce. To harness the passion of the next-gen and progress their sustainability plans, governments, businesses and educators must be prepared to support the environmental literacy of all age groups. 

Progress towards climate change requires multigenerational education and collaborative action. Considering many people today get their news about climate change from social media, businesses must actively work with employees and other groups on misinformation and invest in plans that deliver trust and engagement.

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