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Business expert says teens have power to bring about change

Believe it or not, businesses are planning around what teenagers think.

On March 10, Andrew Winston, author of “The Big Pivot” and one of the world’s foremost experts on sustainability in the business world, talked to UB students and members of the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable about important megatrends that are changing the way companies make decisions.

Megatrends are forces that are going to affect our future world.

Much of Winston’s talk was about what businesses can and should do to help combat climate change. One of his arguments for businesses to work to help the environment is that teenagers care about the environment.

Winston is convinced that teenagers have power. Often young people believe that they are powerless, and the power belongs to the generation before them. But Winston sees teens bringing about change.

More and more businesses are inspired to go green because millennials don’t want to work for unethical companies that don’t care about the environment. Today’s teenagers, he said, want to save the planet more than any generation before them.

In his presentation, Winston talked about a recent study that showed that 87 percent of millennials think “the success of a business should be measured in more than just its financial performance”; 56 percent have “ruled out working for a particular organization because of its values”; and 77 percent of teenagers, now being called “Generation Z,” think that “businesses should make doing good a central part of their business … and not just by giving to charity.”

He gave the example of one girl who used to get PepsiCo to change its recipe by getting 80,000 signatures on a petition protesting a certain chemical used in the drink. This was an ingredient Coke and Pepsi had used for decades, and one 15-year-old girl made them change it.

Partly, the power of teenagers today comes from their easy access to the Internet, and their ability to get the attention of thousands of people with a few clicks.

Winston also mentioned that the average American teenager texts 4,000 times a month. Instead of using that statistic as a way to say that teenagers are always on their devices, he pointed out this communication can be used as an easy way to bring people together.

Because of sites like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, more and more people, especially teenagers, are more aware of issues than they could be before. Organizations to save elephants, sea turtles and lions have been started and spread through Twitter.

Members of Generation Z already have more power than they know, Winston said. Teenagers have access to a platform to bring about change at the touch of a few buttons. All they need is someone like Andrew Winston to get them to realize it.

Anna Lawrence is a junior at Amherst High School.