Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer, Ingka Group. Image: Ingka Group

Let your inner teenager guide you to act for people and planet

On Friday September 25th the world marked Global Climate Action Day, where people around the world called for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. The global youth climate movement has meant a generation of young people, some of them already leaders and activists are inspiring us and pushing us forwards.

Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer, Ingka Group, shares her views and reflections on the importance of engaging in dialogue with the young people to allow their voices to remind us to make the right business decisions for people and planet. 

When I was in my 20s, my eyes opened to the challenges that are facing the planet. I still hold the same conviction and determination to act for people and the planet as I did back then: not to compromise and to do what is right, even when it is difficult. I do not always succeed, but the intent is there.

In front of us, we have a generation of young people, some of them already leaders and activists, who are worried about their future, yet full of determination to create real and necessary change. They are the first generation that is worse off than their parents, financially, but also from a quality of life point of view if we do not turn this around in the next nine years. We simply cannot let irreversible climate change happen.

When I hear the voices from the global youth movement, I am reminded of our need as business leaders to go back and remind ourselves of the thoughts and feelings that guided us when we were young; the wish to drive change that attracted us to join the businesses and organisations we are in today. We need to bring that determination into our everyday decision making, asking ourselves: what would my 19 year old self think of this decision?

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to press the reset button and embark upon a journey to build back better. Who better to remind us of our inner purposes and push us on that journey than the young people who will inherit the planet? We must let them inspire us and to push us forwards, and we need to mirror their young mindsets to find the simplicity in solutions, even though topics of inequality, climate change and biodiversity are complex.

We are determined in Ingka Group to continue to engage in dialogue with the young people to allow their voices to remind us to make the right decisions. It has also given us the opportunity to show how a business like ours is working hard to find solutions for today and tomorrow. We still have a lot to learn, but we are on a journey to transform into a climate positive and circular business. There are already so many learnings from the conversations we’ve held in the last year:

  • At Climate Week last year, Ingka Group participated in a dialogue between 15 young climate leaders and 15 CEOs of large companies. For us it became our starting point to engage in further dialogue. We committed to intensify our engagement with youth leaders.
  • Following that first meeting, Javier Quiñones and leaders of IKEA US invited a number of young leaders to meet and share the IKEA People and Planet Positive strategy and hear about the priorities and ambitions of young leaders in the sustainability movement.
  • And this fall a handful of young leaders joined IKEA ONE HOME, ONE PLANET, an action-oriented event to break down barriers to solving key social and environmental challenges facing the world. They met with Ingka Group leaders to reflect and discuss the current moment and the position that we are in and to give us new insights and to further our dialogue. 

It’s a positive for us to keep listening, and to step up to the challenge. We will continue to listen and engage in dialogue on how to build back better and to bridge the gap between younger and older generations.

I will continue to listen to the youth and hear their voices as a reminder to keep doing the right thing. Since my 20s my sense of urgency has only grown in me, especially since I became a parent of two daughters. Young people of today luckily know they do not have to wait until they get the “right” role to have their voices heard, hopefully they also know that they have the power to decide who to vote for and which companies to interact with.

Together, young, old, as consumers, citizens and as business leaders, we have it in our hands to make decisions today that determines the future we want. Let’s have the courage to act with speed and determination to create a low-carbon and fair society.

To you who sit with the ability and responsibility to act to make a better future, I strongly recommend that you too meet and listen to the youth and remind yourself of your younger days. Find your inner teenager and act on what is right, so that we can hand over a world to them that is better than we found it. 

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