Would the world be better if it was run by teenagers?

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  • Climate change

Image source, Good EnergyImage caption, Good Energy's Good Future Board has six members (five of whom are pictured here) now aged from 13 to 17

What would the world be like if it was run by teenagers? One company decided to find out.

UK renewable energy provider, Good Energy, appointed six young people, aged from 12 to 17, to sit on a new advisory board back in March – no adults allowed.

This Good Future Board holds regular meetings, where its members have the opportunity to present ideas to the firm's chief executive and other bosses, and question business decisions.

One of the board members is Shaina Shah,14, who lives in London. She is passionate about the environment, and wants to protect her world for future generations.

"I think adults can think about money first," she says. "They don't always choose the most sustainable option."

Image source, Shaina ShahImage caption, Shaina Shah says that children and young adults invariably think more longer term

"[But] young people have grown up in a world where the effects of climate change are clearly visible."

Shaina adds that she and the other five members of the advisory board are not afraid to tell the adults when they think they're wrong.

They were appointed after more than 1,000 school children across England entered a competition organised via environmental charity Eco-Schools.

Entrants had to write a 500-word personal statement that answered three questions – What inspired you to care for our planet? What skills or experiences you can bring? And – Do you have one idea for how a renewable energy company can do more to help protect the planet?

The six winners were described as "incredibly passionate, insightful and impressive".

Jack Solly, 13, is also on the advisory board, having been appointed when he was just 12. He says he jumped at the chance, as he wanted to learn about business and the energy market. He also hopes to use the opportunity to help "preserve some of the wild places".

"This planet is precious," says Jack. "And if we don't look after it then we won't have anywhere to live."

Image source, Jack SollyImage caption, Jack Solly was keen to find out more about how businesses work

He adds that young people's priorities are more focused on the future than those of adults. "Adults are more focused on the present, on doing their jobs – will their boss be happy? Will they get their promotion? Rather than thinking ahead and considering the long-term impacts of their actions," he says.

"Younger people don't have so many pressures and stresses, so are free to look into the future."

The positions on the advisory board are unpaid, but the members do get their expenses paid for when they attend Good Energy's annual general meeting. And two weekends ago the company paid for them to attend United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth, held in Glasgow ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

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Good Energy says that, so far, the advisory board has helped it review its diversity and inclusion strategy, and that "their feedback on our brand and how we position ourselves has played a big part in a new website we are launching soon".

The company's chief executive, Nigel Pocklington, adds: "We wanted to give a diverse group of young people a voice in the [climate] crisis which will impact them more than older generations. They give us new ideas and perspectives which we wouldn't get from experienced business executives."

Shaina and Jack are both part of Generation Z or Gen Z – young adults and children born between the mid 1990s and the early 2010s.

Gen Z is now the most-populous generation on Earth, according to numerous studies. One such report said that members of Generation Z now account for 2.5 billion people, or 32% of the global population. This is ahead of second place millennials (those born between 1981 and 1995), who make up 22%.

The environment is the biggest concern of members of Gen Z, according to a global survey this year by accountancy group Deloitte. This is followed by unemployment, healthcare and education.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Studies show that children are more concerned about the environment than adults

Maxine Marcus, is the founder of San Francisco-based The Ambassadors Company, which allows brands to survey thousands of teens across the US.

The 21-year-old says the idea for the business "really fell into my lap". "When I was in middle school, my dad, a venture capitalist, pulled me out of class to attend my first pitch meeting.

"The companies pitching kept diverting their attention to me, asking about my life and habits. It was then that I realised how critical my voice was."

So, in 2017, at the age of 17, Ms Marcus recruited school friends and set up The Ambassadors Company. "I hope I can build something meaningful, a business that can perpetuate long after me," she says. "I grew up in the start-up world – so I'm mentally wired to want to build a unicorn [a privately-owned company valued at more than $1bn [£740m]."

Image source, Maxine MarcusImage caption, Maxine Marcus has big ambitions for her company

The issue of excessive food waste is a topic that concerns many members of Generation Z. And with the World Wildlife Fund estimating that one third of all edible food is thrown away globally, perhaps it should be a bigger topic of discussion for people of all ages.

In the US state of Colorado, Sophie Warren says that when her parents first started beekeeping when she was a young child, she and her older sisters, Chloe and Lily, couldn't bear to see all the beeswax going to waste after the honey had been harvested from the honeycombs.

"We realised there was a significant amount of beeswax left over," says Sophie, now 17, "We didn't want to throw it away because the bees worked super hard to make it. So, instead of wasting it, we made lip balms out of it."

In 2009 when Sophie was just five, Chloe, seven, and Lily, nine, the three sisters (with a bit of help from mum and dad) set up a cosmetics company – Sweet Bee Sisters – to sell the lip balm.

The firm now sells a range of skincare products, and the siblings hope that their example will inspire other children and young adults to become environmentally-minded entrepreneurs.

"We want other strong leaders to come up alongside us," says Sophie. "We believe that our generation will be world changers."

Image source, Good Energy

Back at Good Energy, fellow advisory board member, Mahnoor Kamran, 17, from Stoke-on-Trent, says that the group debate the firm's "business policies, environmental policies and ethics".

"For us [on the panel], it's not about short-term gains and profit," she says. "For young people, it is about our future -who gets to live, and who suffers. I think we will always put the planet over profit in every situation."

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