This next generation of leaders and activists already has a good vision of their shared “sustainable future”: supporting them is key.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, and according to the International Monetary Fund, the stakes are especially high for Asia. The region is seeing temperatures rising two times faster than the global average, which is associated with the increased frequency and severity of weather-related natural disasters.
Meanwhile, Generation Z is often described as the first “digital natives”: entrepreneurial go-getters, fearless in their pursuit of change. These qualities make them a key stakeholder in our fight against climate change, especially in Asia. In true Gen Z fashion, they are calling for more sustained climate action.
According to our own research, many Gen Zs believe that technology has an important role to play in addressing our climate crisis. And they are also demanding governments and businesses do better and more quickly.
As business leaders, the hard truth is that the decisions we make today will be legacy-defining, and it is our responsibility to listen to this tech-savvy generation that will inherit everything that we create and leave behind.
Sustainability and technology in Gen Zs’ eyes
When polled about how technology can be harnessed to benefit and support the next generations and ensure a resilient future for everyone, almost two-thirds of Gen Zs believed that technology will play a vital role in the fight against the climate crisis.
In this fight, Gen Zs have called for governments to lead the way by accelerating digital investments to meet future economic and societal challenges in the form of prioritizing the use of sustainable energy, enabling a circular economy, and more sustainable public transport. Respondents also believed there was a need to accelerate investments in digital healthcare, education, and green infrastructure.
Among some Asia Pacific countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, improving healthcare services was the top priority. Building sustainable or green infrastructures was a second priority for Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, while Singapore Gen Zs polled preferred to invest in closing skills gaps as their second priority. Those of South Korea were more focused on creating a more equitable society.
Navigating diverse sustainability goals across markets
Perhaps what may set Gen Zs apart from previous generations is that 79% of respondents were willing to accept short-term economic limitations for longer-term green investment. However, 25% also expressed support for greater education for citizens so as to be empowered to make more sustainable choices.
- Notably, the Gen Zs we polled prioritized the need for a circular economy, with those of Singapore indicating their greatest support for investments in the circular economy compared with respondents from other APAC countries polled. Japan and South Korea place less importance on these investment options.
- In Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, Gen Zs believe governments should prioritize investments in sustainable energy.
While there are big expectations for governments to act on, the private sector must step up to support the public sector and help Gen Zs achieve their sustainability goals. For example, we should align our sustainability efforts with their goals, focusing on mitigating pollutant emissions by offering more sustainable solutions and working towards creating circular economies.
One way is by creating sustainable products and services that are accessible and affordable, especially because eco-friendly products and services have often been seen as overpriced; and consumers lack enough information to be convinced to make a switch to a more eco-friendly alternative.
Making sustainable change with lasting impact
As the private sector makes the effort to transform, we must recognize that the sustainable shift cannot be superficial, because Gen Zs are expected to mature into consumer activists. The oldest people among the generation are already turning 25, joining the workforce, and exerting their influence among their social groups and across their social media feeds.
For businesses to really live up to the expectations of Gen Zs and align with their values (as well as for future talent attraction and retention), we must embed sustainability practices at the core of our organizations — driving transformation from who and how we hire people, to ensuring carbon-neutral production.
As we continue to innovate and advance technology, we have to hold ourselves accountable, by setting strong commitments to reduce our environmental impact, and evolving with the needs of people and the planet.
As we strive to accomplish our business goals, we will need to continue to address complex societal challenges — of which, climate change and the need for sustainability continue to be at the forefront. Internally, I have set sustainability goals to guide our journey: by 2030, for every product a customer buys, we will reuse or recycle an equivalent product. All 100% of our packaging will be made from recycled or renewable material, and more than half of our product content will be made from recycled or renewable material.
It is only a matter of time before Gen Z becomes the majority. The future is calling, and the time to act is now. Let us pave the way and make the necessary changes to enable and empower our Sustainability Generation.