[Issue 073] Millennials and Gen Z


Good morning!  


I am back from 10 days of traveling through China and, thanks to my 10 hours of sleep last night, fully recovered from jet lag. I landed in NYC late last Tuesday night, arriving just in time to enjoy the BSR conference.

My panel was on Thursday afternoon, titled Our Future Leaders: Engaging Millennials and Gen Z, moderated by BSR employee and ABL reader Lis Best! (🏾Hey Lis!) 


We talked about the future of sustainable business, how our careers brought us to this point, how we incorporate sustainability into our lives and much more.

Some interesting info about Millennials and Gen Z:

  • 3/4 of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments in deciding where to work

  • 2/3 say they would not accept a job somewhere without a strong sustainability program 

  • 75% of millennials expect companies to speak up on important issues, even if those same consumers don’t agree with the companies’ positions

  • 94% of Gen Z (which will account for 40% of all consumers globally by 2020) believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues

Lis and I co-authered a piece on the topic, if you want to learn more: Millennials, Gen Z, and the Future of Sustainability: Two ways to engage the next generation of customers and employees

There was also a lively discussion with the audience, which was great. 


Even more, the BSR Conference itself was awesome. One of my favorite sessions was the the interview with Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All. He's been on the speaking circuit since his book released, and he was consistent with his signature messages.

The main one: corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments do not absolve companies from the harm they are doing to society, just as philanthropy does not absolve the richest among us who earned their wealth at the expense of society. He also calls big companies out for their desire to solve problems at scale while evading corporate taxes.


 Honestly, he articulates so much of what I've struggled to express throughout my career in Corporate America, especially regarding my disinterest in a traditional CSR career.

The most aha moment for me was his call for companies to begin publishing audited reports on their lobbying efforts, ensuring that they aren't actively undoing the otherwise good work of their CSR (and other) employees. 


Complete sidebar: He's my favorite person to follow on Twitter right now b/c he's constantly calling CEOs and companies out!

There were several other engaging sessions at BSR, including:

  • A talk by the New York Times Corner Office columnist, David Gelles, about the culture shift we have witnessed. We no longer live in a world where companies shy away from politics (they can no longer afford to, arguably). "When CEOs speak out, the world listens."

  • A session about how companies can create a "Good Jobs" strategy. I learned a lot during this session, and this article is a good primer for anyone else this is new to.

  • A breakout that took a deeper dive into the impact of shareholder activism, which I'm really interested in and look forward to talking about more in a future issue.

  • An interview with New York Times' investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey about their experience breaking the Harvey Weinstein story last year.

Me, after the conference.

Me, after the conference.

Of course I also made some awesome connections, some of which you'll learn more about in future issues of the newsletter. Given that I'm on the board of directors for the Northern California affiliate, the one I'm most excited about is Planned Parenthood! The org is doing important work partnering with companies and their employees - especially in tech.

Overall, it was one of the best business conferences I've been to in a long time. I'd even recommend checking out the hashtag #BSR18 to see all the other gems folks shared on Twitter.


[Chris Carlson / AP]

[Chris Carlson / AP]


The War Inside 7-Eleven. On January 10th of this year, several 7-Eleven convenience stores in 17 states were swarmed by ICE agents who were asking all the employees for identification, place of birth, and how long they had lived here, as well as asking the owner of the stores to hand over employee records and I-9’s. Because some of the employees were found to be undocumented, the owners were in breach of their franchise agreements, which meant 7-Eleven could lawfully seize the stores from the franchise owners. (This is a long read that had me on the edge of my seat!) // BLOOMBERG

Colorado Votes to Abolish Unpaid Prison Work, But Paltry Wages Are Still the Norm Nationwide. Colorado passed Amendment A during the midterm election, which was an initiative to remove state legislation allowing unpaid labor in prisons, which many believe to be modern slavery. However, this still does not mean the workers would be paid much, and across the United States prisoners earn an average max daily pay of $3.45. // TRIPLE PUNDIT

Merck Pulls Out of Agreement To Supply Life-Saving Vaccine To Millions Of Kids. The pharmaceutical giant has recently decided to end a long term agreement to supply children in West African countries with a lifesaving vaccine for Rotavirus at a reduced price. Rotavirus kills roughly 200,000 children a year, and by 2020, Merck & Co will no longer be selling the vaccine at all in these countries. Instead, the company will be selling the vaccine to China at a higher price. China also has a problem with Rotavirus, causing a significant percentage of doctor’s visits for young children. // NPR


Why the Google Walkout Was a Watershed Moment in Tech. At 11 a.m on Thursday, November 1st, upwards of 20,000 Google employees walked out of their places of work to protest the company’s history of protecting their top executives from employee accusations of sexual harassment. This marks a monumental change in the Tech industry, as the very employees who make the company work and function are no longer accepting the poor management practices and are protesting against the company, applying a new form of pressure on the industry that is hasn’t seen before. // NYTIMES


Consumers Want to Eat Beef, Not Wear It, Sending Leather Prices Plummeting. Throughout the history of the modern shoe industry, real leather from cow hides has been the most desirable material for shoes, but now more consumers are seeking vegan and non-animal material made shoes, such as shoes made from canvas, recycled plastic, wool, and other natural fibers and biodegradable materials. This trend stays true even for consumers who are not vegan/vegetarian. This move towards more sustainable, natural, or recycled/man-made textiles will have a huge affect on the leather industry, as the shoe industry is the biggest customer for the leather industry. // BUSINESS OF FASHION


"Being a CEO no longer just means managing a profit and loss statement." 

– David Gelles, onstage at BSR

Nikita T. Mitchell