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“Invite us into your boardrooms”

19 September 2019
Reading Time: 3 mins
Joshua Muthu. Youth Ambassador-Action for Conservation


At this year’s UKBCSD strategy meeting, members expressed their wish to engage with young people, to hear their views, thoughts and ideas on all-things-sustainability. The increasing Youth voice represents a stakeholder challenge which no forward thinking business can ignore. However, the potential influence that young people can have upon decision-making is not acknowledged early enough. More problematically, businesses have little experience maintaining long term contact with young people. The outcome being, they fail to take account of the ethics and values of tomorrow’s consumer. Today and in the future, this approach must change. By happy coincidence, Chief Executive Charles Roach had previously attended a Youth and Business Workshop and met 16-year old Joshua Muthu, there to represent Action for Conservation. Joshua’s message was loud and clear; “Engage with us. Invite us into your boardrooms. Incorporate the essence of our ideas into your business decisions.”

Joshua says it was a chance glance at an article from the Biology department in his school newsletter, featuring the Action for Conservation (AFC) summer camp, that first piqued his curiosity in climate change. One successful joint application later – they wrote about the devastating impact of microfibres - and he and his brother found themselves at the 2018 camp, a game changer for Joshua. “The AFC team were young, vibrant and enthusiastic. They were there to engage young people in the issues and challenges our world faces, it really opened my eyes. We regained our connection to nature but it was pragmatic and practical too, teaching us how to get our message across, how to communicate with a far wider audience.”

“Young people don’t have the experience of addressing meetings, developing strategies but we have ideas and convictions. For young people, the zeitgeist is climate change and corporate social responsibility… but are corporations facing those responsibilities? I would like to see business establishing youth boards, or having youth representation in the Board Room. This isn’t about being radical for the sake of it but a lot of young people want to make a difference and are very, very conscious of the climate emergency. We are inventive, inquisitive people and we believe we have a lot to offer. After all, it is our future we are invested in. We might not have the power but we are the ones who are catalysing the change, which is currently being reflected in both on a political and at a grassroots level.”

Nobody could fail to recognise Greta Thunberg or be aware of the influence she has had on the climate change conversation. Similarly, Extinction Rebellion has been instrumental in raising awareness although, on this point, Joshua believes they have not yet been clear enough in communicating their green manifesto.

“We have to take politics into account but my concern is that XR is carrying political baggage. They must stay green, keep it simple and make it very clear that they are not involved with leftist ideology, which will only put off many of the people they need to attract to their cause, people who are more conservative in their thinking. The political and economic angle must be about reducing our impact on the climate but we have to work with the market system, not against it.

“In my view, scientific evidence and innovation will be the drivers that get us through the climate emergency but the Corporates must be on side. Financial incentives should be provided for those who are working sustainably, and rewards for reducing their carbon footprint. Too many people have stood on the side-lines and watched, but young people are catalysts for change. It makes good business sense to start a dialogue with us, take our opinions into account and, in doing so, present a message to customers (and future customers) and shareholders that you are socially aware and conscious of the world around you. None of us own this world, we guard and protect it for the next generation.”