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State of the planet a worrying concern for future generations

Young Activists

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Business leaders are responding to one of the most sweeping crises in recent memory, calling for both empathy and action to guide people through uncertain times. News reports, social media and conversations with loved ones are inundated with information and stories about the impacts and effects of the coronavirus.

While we continue to weather this storm, it is important we remember the planet and its population are facing other substantial challenges which simultaneously cry out for our attention. It is my hope that as we build back towards a new normal, issues that have been placed on the back burner get the attention and action they deserve. One key challenge affecting us all but receiving significantly less attention than it did a few months ago is climate change.

Young people are more concerned than any other age group about climate change, and parents are more concerned than those without children at home.

Keen to understand how we meet the demands of next generations and to develop business towards a future where people and planet can thrive, IKEA and GlobeScan conducted research in August and September involving over 30,000 consumers across 30 countries. The research shows that globally, climate change is a concern for the majority, with 73 percent of people worrying a lot or a fair amount about it.

Among the 14 markets previously surveyed in 2017, we found that anxiety around climate change was growing. A multitude of climate-related impacts rightly cause concern, but our study highlighted that the main thing worrying people across the world is the state of the planet for future generations. People are also worried about negative environmental impacts such as rising sea levels and biodiversity loss.

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While individuals, organizations and governments are making changes and putting targets in place to try to mitigate or stop these negative impacts from occurring, it is apparent that current efforts are not rapid or far-reaching enough to meet the IPCC’s limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. Our failure to have significant impact now means that our young adults and children are most likely to be affected by the future negative impacts of climate change, as well as future generations.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that our study found young people (18-24) are more concerned than any other age group about climate change, and that parents are more concerned than those without children at home. Data from GlobeScan’s 2019 Healthy & Sustainable Living survey also shows that Gen Z are the most likely to feel stressed or anxious in everyday life, and also feel guilty about their negative impact on the environment.

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Concern for and among youth is evident in the action we are witnessing around the world. Young people are increasingly speaking out, making people hear their voices and acknowledge and address their concerns. #FridaysForFuture has encouraged and empowered school children globally to protest a lack of climate action, and earlier this year we saw a strong youth presence at the 2020 World Economic Forum in the form of youth activist panels and speeches from 17-year-old Greta Thunberg. As spokespeople, younger members of our communities are encouraging others to act, whether it be government, companies or us as individuals at home.

There is evidence that people have started listening. GlobeScan’s research with IKEA found that people are willing to take action and change their behavior to help reduce climate change. Their main reason for doing so is to help benefit future generations.

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So how can we meet the demands of next generations and ensure we provide a future where both people and planet thrive? Our research found that people need more help, support and advice as not everyone knows what to do (37 percent say not knowing what to do prevents them from taking action). There is a clear role for business to play as people want more support, whether it be implementing a policy or strategy to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to take action, offering products and services that have positive impacts or by providing clear advice and information. Fifty-one percent of consumers say there is not enough support from business.

And what about the average person? Taking climate action does not have to mean that all of us need to make life-altering sacrifices. Small changes matter and collectively they add up to have a big impact. Even in times of uncertainty during the current COVID-19 crisis we can take positive actions in our homes and everyday lives. With less access to shops than normal, I’ve been making a conscious effort to ensure I waste less food. Other small yet effective actions include recycling, reducing waste, using our own bags when shopping and increasing the amount of plant-based meals we eat.

No one person can do everything, but everyone can do something.

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