A recent story about the so-called millennial generation – those born between 1982 and 2000 (ish) recently caught our eye.
The story was about how millennials – who actually care quite deeply about the environment – do not want to be called environmentalists. The part that really enchanted us about this story is that these sentiments are exactly what we at EarthPM have been all about for the past 5 years or so.
And that’s simply the fact that you don’t have to take a political stance or be an “environmentalist” to understand that (for example) corporate social responsibility (CSR) simply … makes sense (and cents).
Take, for example, this extract:
Young people have been the life blood of the environmental movement for decades. There could be trouble on the horizon though, and it all comes down to semantics.
To explain, it’s helpful to use the example of Lisa Curtis, a 26-year-old from Oakland, California.
Curtis comes from a long line of environmentally-conscious Americans. Her grandmother, Sis Curtis was an avid hiker and at 84 remains a Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund member. Lisa’s 55-year-old mother, Barb Curtis drives a hybrid car, roofed her house with solar panels, and avoids using plastic except as a last resort.
Although they aren’t the types to flaunt it, both women would call themselves environmentalists.
However, it’s Lisa Curtis, the youngest of the three, who truly sets the bar for sustainability in this family. She started her high school’s recycling club, she traveled to Copenhagen in 2009 to observe international climate talks and she nearly experiences physical pain when she’s forced to throw away food scraps in a regular trash can rather than a compost bin.
“It just feels wrong,” she says.
But unlike the Curtises before her, Lisa refuses to call herself an environmentalist.
“I think the term has been sort of corrupted… politicized,” she says.
This is the difference when it comes to millennials, 18-33 year-olds. Young Americans, including staunch environmentalists like Lisa, may be turning away from the word “environmentalist.” A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year asked participants if they felt the term “environmentalist” describes them very well. Over 40 percent of respondents said yes, except when it came to millennials. Just 32 percent of them agreed. That might not seem substantial, but Pew says it’s statistically significant.
The Pew Research Center didn’t ask participants for their for reasons why. But Lisa Curtis has a theory: the word “environmentalist” has become outdated.
“It’s starting to be used more in a derogatory way,” she says. “Oh you’re such an environmentalist. You’re not in touch with the real world.”
This is particularly important to us as project managers for a reason that’s increasingly important: these millenniums are your new project team members, your new project managers – perhaps even your new bosses.
They integrate sustainability thinking into their life – so much so that they don’t want the label or the connotation of environmentalism. It makes sense – and it makes sense for us as project managers.
We don’t need a separate knowledge area in the PMBOK(R) Guide… we need an increased sense of holistic and long-term thinking when we make project decisions.
Learn from this. The millennials have a meaningful and important message for us.