One Young World is the high-profile annual summit for young global leaders, dubbed the "junior Davos" by CNN after the World Economic Forum's annual gathering of powerbrokers. At this year's summit, over four warm October days in Johannesburg, 1,500 young leaders from business, government and civil society from 190 countries discussed the big issues facing the world. Established global figures including former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington were on hand to counsel them.
What unites all those leaders - and the big name corporates like Barclays, Clifford Chance, Unilever and PwC which sponsor One Young World - is a strong belief in Generation Y's ability to lead businesses that do good not just do well. And this year, I was 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, and which includes Arianna Huffington - as we presented them with a new One Young World Charter for Business Leadership setting out how Generation Y can work with established leaders to turn our shared vision for better business into reality.
The B Team is a new non-profit organisation led by Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and former Chairman of PUMA Jochen Zeitz, which also includes One Young World patrons Arianna Huffington and Muhammad Yunus. Sir Richard opened this year's special B Team 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, the B Team seeks to develop and implement a "Plan B" for business that puts people and planet alongside profit. The B Team's 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 And Arianna said they saw a key role for One Young World delegates in this mission.
Together with two fellow One Young World ambassadors, I was able, on behalf of the One Young World 2013 delegation, to call on the B Team to incorporate three key principles into their work: empowerment of young employees, purpose beyond profit, and collaboration. My speech focused on empowerment of young employees, for example by appointing young employees to boards, give 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. Arianna Huffington, continued, "By joining forces with The B Team and committing to the principles outlined in The One Young World Charter for Business, these young leaders are leveraging business and entrepreneurship to change the world. I'm inspired by the depth of their commitment and the scope of their mission."
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. One Young World sponsor, 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, Telefonica and Coutts now engage their young leaders and next generation talent in their decision-making processes at a high level.
We closed the session by affirming that the entire One Young World community would strive to embed the principles of the OYW 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 like Arianna Huffington about their ambitions for change at the post-session lunch, 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.
Watch Alan Mak, Sir Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington at the One Young World B Team session on sustainable business: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxwMW4_d-Z4
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