MARRAKESH // Today’s youth value protecting the environment over economic gain and see education and social awareness as key enablers to sustainable development, according to a new survey by Masdar.
The Masdar Gen Z Global Sustainability Survey involved around 5,000 young people aged 18-25 from across the globe in order to understand the challenges they see in the future. The findings offer insights into a generation’s hopes and fears about the environmental legacy that they have inherited.
“The findings of the research are very clear – global youth demand a sustainable future and they believe more investment in renewables, from both the public and private sectors, is critical to achieving this,” said Mohammed Al Ramahi, chief executive of Masdar.
Although the environment ranked third in the top 5 challenges faced by young people today, after poverty and threat of terrorism, it was the top challenge to address in the next 10 years by 40 per cent of those surveyed.
Young adults today are adamant about taking responsibility for the environmental legacy they have inherited, believing it is the biggest issue for their generation to solve and sceptical of corporations earnest attempts to deal with climate change.
In fact, youth today are willing to boycott corporations that they see as ingenuine when addressing climate change to affect the behaviour of businesses. Almost half, 46 per cent, choose to spend money on products from firms that behave sustainability and 31 per cent would boycott a company they perceived as following unsustainable practices.
The survey also found that young people don’t see the older generation as being capable of addressing climate change.
“Putting young people as agents of social change doesn’t mean condescendingly telling them that the future is in their hands, which frankly is a cop out,” said John Crowley of the UNESCO Management of Social Transformation Project.
“The issue is that they are agents of social change because it is within their capacity to change their future.”
Emirati-Omani student Mohammed Al Ghailani, who took part in the survey, said companies are beginning to take young people’s opinions seriously.
“Companies are beginning to understand. We are starting to think about local, about the total environmental cost of a product,” he said, adding he chooses products that are environmentally friendly and that consumer power is a powerful tool for the youth to begin carving corporate environmental policies.
“It’s an effective tool and the only way to make corporations reconsider their actions. The survey shows the youth perspective and if companies fail to recognise that, it will be their end.
“Purchasing power of the youth is much higher than it should be so we do actually have a say when it comes to the products that are available in the market, and companies need to learn how to adapt.”
The survey also found that levels trust in government, the media and big business to behave sustainably is relatively low among young people.
“Many of the leaders plans don’t align with many young people’s expectations of ambitious climate action,” Timothy Damon, a member of YOUNGO, the UNFCCC observer constituency of youth non-governmental organisations. “Young people need to be in solidarity to really push for the most progressive change in politics.”
Mr Damon said there needs to be more avenues for young people to have an input on decision making and that countries have no excuse to not include them.
“In order to effectively plan and take action in delivering a sustainable future, we need to understand the hopes and concerns of today’s young people,” said Mr Al Ramahi.