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A strong belief in Generation Y’s ability to lead businesses that do well not just do good underpins One Young World’s mission. And this year, its Ambassadors were honoured to share the stage at the Johannesburg Summit with the B Team – a new network of global business leaders led by Sir Richard Branson – as we presented them with the our new Charter for Business Leadership setting out how our generation make work with established leaders to turn our vision into reality.
The B Team is a new non-profit organisation founded by Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and former Chairman of PUMA Jochen Zeitz, which also includes One Young World Counsellors Arianna Huffington, Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Kathy Calvin. Sir Richard opened the Special Session by explaining that the B Team’s aim is to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. Working with a global community of advisors and partners including One Young World and Havas Media, the B Team seeks to develop and implement a “Plan B” for business that puts people and the planet alongside profit. The B Team leaders will focus on execution and action, catalysing and amplifying others’ efforts by undertaking specific global challenges, where their collective voice can make a difference. Sir Richard said he saw a key role for One Young World Ambassadors in this mission.
Together with fellow Ambassadors Angela Jhanji and Charlie Oliver, I was able to call on the B Team to incorporate three key principles into their work: the empowerment of young employees, purpose beyond profit, and collaboration. My speech focused on the empowerment of young employees. By appointing young employees to boards, one gives them a real voice in defining corporate governance; creating platforms within companies in order to learn from and listen to young people; and using young employees to improve accountability for top-level management.
Underpinning my belief that Generation Y has a key role to play in shaping the future of business are big global trends: as globalisation speeds up, customer expectations shift, and the impact of social media rises. The global market place is now more complex than ever before. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition - especially in customer-facing sectors like retail, media and finance - need Gen Y to help them understand and respond to the big trends that are already shaping the future: understanding tomorrow's customers; responding to the desire for more responsible business; and gaining a competitive edge in emerging markets. As One Young World Co-founder David Jones says in his best-selling book, Who Cares Wins, there has never been a time in history when the youngest people know more about what is going in the world than the older generation.
In the fast-paced, digitally-enabled, multi-cultural and multi-lingual market place, every company now needs to balance Gen X's experience with Gen Y's dynamism, inherently global outlook, digital aptitude and understanding of responsible business. And adding a Generation Y perspective, as Cambridge University Alumni Advisory Board (on which I serve) has done, can be a powerful antidote to age-related groupthink in an era when the world is getting younger. Havas, one of the world's leading global advertising, communications and digital groups, has also led the way in empowering Generation Y. Last year, Havas Worldwide's UK Group Chairman, Kate Robertson, appointed me to her board, working with six market-leading UK group companies, whilst other One Young World sponsors such as Unilever, Telefónica and Coutts now engage their young leaders and next generation talent in their decision-making processes at a high level.
Angela and Charlie reinforced One Young World’s belief that businesses should have a purpose beyond profit and that collaboration as well as competition is the key to building a more sustainable business world. Initiatives like creating public, transparent targets which are related to the ethics and values and ensure corporate expansion into new markets is made sustainable through collaboration with local communities would be key.
We closed the Session by affirming that the entire One Young World Ambassador community would strive to embed the principles of the Charter for Business Leadership in our own organisations and businesses so that global business can and will be transformed into a force for good. Having spoken alongside Sir Richard and heard first hand from the other B Team leaders about their ambitions for change, I am more confident than ever that we can overcome many of the challenges business faces today so that the next generation will not have to face them tomorrow.