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October, 27, 2021  |  Helen Steiger   |  

Future Thinking: Equity for Generations to Come

Most of us know we must drive impactful, meaningful, transformative change in order to ensure the beauty of our world is preserved and enhanced for future generations.

Helen Steiger
Senior consultant in our London, UK team, Helen has a background in social and environmental impact, communications and stakeholder engagement.

The recent Youth4Climate strikes and demonstrations reiterate that it is our children, and children’s children, who will suffer from our inaction today.

Humans as a species are not very good at considering the long term in our decision-making. Humans love certainty; we love a three-year plan. Our decision-making and strategy processes align quite nicely with our natural bias for the present over the deeply uncertain future. 

This difficulty to imagine a future world and make long-term decisions, alongside the existential threats posed by the climate crisis and other impending crises, creates a perfect storm: future generations are not considered equally, if at all, in our decisions today. However, the definition of sustainable development in the Brundtland Report, confirms future generations must be the focus of any sustainability strategy or action plan.

Sustainable Development is ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'

So, how do we make this admittedly cognitively difficult concept tangible? How does an organisation, business, or policymaker, easily and meaningfully demonstrate that they value their children’s (and their children’s children’s!) future at least equally to their own? How can organisations and people take action to address intergenerational equity?

Here at Junxion, we work to enable transformative, meaningful and bold impact. We help leaders build the success stories of what we call ‘the next economy’—one we see emerging around the world, and that prioritizes benefits to future generations.

Here are some ways you can think about embedding the long-term future into your thinking today. Let us know what you think…

  1. Bring future-thinking and a consideration of future generations into the strategy and planning cycle. Ensure employees actively consider the repercussions of actions on future generations as part of your planning and strategy processes. This could include pre-agreeing a Youth Manifesto, and using this to test any future changes (strategic or operational). Examples of this include the manifesto created as part of the Grosvenor Youth engagement programme for Mayfair Youth Forum.
  2. Develop a Youth Board. Complimentary to, or as part of the standard company board, create a board of young people and invite them to ensure the company strategy is in keeping with the values and expectations of young people–now and in the future. This could include assigning a seat in senior management to a person who would represent the views of young people and future generations in meetings. Check out Good Energy’s ‘Good Future Board’  and the structure of the Forest Stewardship Council for an example of this in action. 
  3. Bring young people into the company. Offer work experience, internships, research opportunities, and mentorship schemes in order to increase connections between today’s workforce and future generations. Bring young people’s voices into internal communications by incorporating their ideas and values into speeches and communications. Consider even having young thought leaders present during all-staff meetings / away days, inviting them to share their observations with your team, in a way that’s comfortable for them. Perhaps they reflect on what they’ve seen at the end of each day; perhaps they write a memo after the fact. Just ensure that their perspectives are received and understood by decision-makers.
  4. Inspire others and demonstrate leadership in this area. Actively work with suppliers and other organisations within your ecosystem, providing training and writing into contracts clauses that ensure future generations are considered. Offer training to others as they bring futures-thinking into their strategic planning, such as the support offered by HMRC futures team.
  5. Look to other populations and people for inspiration. It is worth bearing in mind that this struggle to consider long-term implications of today’s decisions is not consistent across all communities. In North American Indigenous populations, the Seventh Generation Principle ensures communities consider the sustainability of their use of energy, water and food resources for seven generations after themselves. Explore this philosophy and look to see how you could learn and incorporate it into your organisational strategy. 

Ultimately, this work will future-proof your organisation, bringing meaningful, long term benefit to people and planet. A Future Generations Commissioner is already in place in Wales, with Scotland also developing a ‘Futures Forum’. Further pressure is now on the UK to bring into force a Future Generations Bill. Soon, this way of thinking will be mandated across all organisations. 

Therefore, action must be taken now to consider those who will inhabit our earth far far far into the future. As we see the Youth4Climate strikes continue, and look to COP26 in Glasgow, we must insist on impactful change—and each of us has a part to play. But this change must not only benefit us now. We need policymakers, businesses, and decision-makers to act for long-term benefits. To ensure future generations can meet their own needs, ultimately leaving our world healthy and vibrant. 

What do you think – could you make some of these changes? Or do you have other great ideas on how organisations can ensure they are leaving people and the planet in a more positive way than today?

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