The New Sustainable Generation: A New Study Reveals Key Beliefs!

[tweetmeme]As businesses continue to feel the pinch from tough economic conditions, the next generation of business leaders says in a new study that sustainability must be a priority for all businesses and sets out its plans for a more sustainable future. ‘The Sustainable Generation: The Sky Future Leaders Study’ examines for the first time the attitudes and ambitions towards sustainability of 750 corporate graduate trainees, high potential middle-managers and MBA students in the UK.

It would be interesting to see the comparison to US counterparts attitudes.

Key findings:
Tomorrow’s business leaders identify themselves as the first ‘sustainable generation’. This is based on:

  • The exposure they’ve had to sustainability, having grown up with issues like environmental protection and social responsibility in their lives and in the media;
  • A personal belief that the environment and contributing to society are important;
  • 69% of participants saying their personal beliefs affect which companies they trust and use themselves;
  • 79% citing the vision and values of a company as an important factor when looking at potential employers; and
  • 34% saying that creating social and environmental value through business is an important career goal.

As well as in their personal lives, they also believe that sustainability is important to business:

  • 70% of participants agree that sustainability can create new opportunities for business;
  • just 21% believe that sustainability has to come at the expense of profit;
  • as well as new business opportunities, sustainability also offers the potential to achieve cost savings;
  • 67% of respondents agree that sustainability can help differentiate start-ups;
  • 66% believe difficult economic conditions should not be an excuse for businesses to ignore sustainability; and
  • while international competitiveness, a failure to innovate and the need to reduce the UK’s deficit are identified as the most pressing challenges facing businesses now and in the future, climate change is the fastest-growing threat.

The sustainable generation has mixed views on current UK business sustainability performance:

  • 78% of participants recognise that companies in the UK are making a real effort to address sustainability;
  • only 3% believe that companies are succeeding in fully integrating sustainability;
  • 32% believe that businesses communicate their sustainability policies and initiatives well enough internally to employees;
  • and 31% well enough externally to customers;
  • Just 15% credit businesses with doing enough on the environment and 13% to support local communities;
  • 62% cite an unwillingness or inability to pay for sustainable products and services as a barrier to progress;
  • 62% also say other business priorities being seen as more important is a barrier; and
  • 32% of middle managers, 30% of graduate trainees and 18% of MBA students believe businesses that claim to have a social purpose beyond creating profit.

Members of the sustainable generation are keen to help move the sustainability agenda forward:

  • 96% of respondents plan on being involved with sustainability in their careers;
  • 72% credit their employer or business school with encouraging them to take a long-term view;
  • as well as commercial benefits, sustainability can help address external pressures and help them as individuals to stand out in their careers;
  • but just 35% feel they have received sufficient sustainability training from their business school or employer; and
  • 26% cite university reforms and access to higher education as a key threat to UK business in 5-10 years time.

They have a five-point plan on how they will address sustainability once they reach senior executive positions themselves:

  1. Improve employee engagement – create a culture that harnesses employees’ creativity and empowers them to drive sustainability initiatives forward;
  2. Collaborate even with competitors – businesses should take collective responsibility by sharing best practice and helping each other to act more sustainably;
  3. Take responsibility for the supply chain – understand the supply chain to mitigate risk and help other companies improve;
  4. Integrate sustainability into values and decisions – make sustainability part of everything a business does by embedding it in its values;
  5. Use new technology – be an early adopter but don’t just rely on technology alone.



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