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Case Study
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Case Study

How business and Gen Z can work together to tackle climate change

EY teams are facilitating life-long learning on climate action and connecting the voices of Gen Z with business.


How can tomorrow’s leaders help tackle climate change today?

Intergenerational decision-making is essential for addressing the climate emergency.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement set ambitious targets to escape irreversible environmental damage. In the years since, as the majority of nations and corporations have fallen short of their agreed targets, and as natural disasters have increased at an unprecedented pace, climate anxiety has continued to rise — especially among Gen Z.

More than any other generation, Gen Z engages with online content about the need for climate action. 37% rank climate change as their number one personal concern and 32% have personally taken action to address climate change in the last year — both higher rates than those displayed by Millennials, Gen X or Boomers1 — and more than three quarters of Gen Z want environmental literacy taught at school.2

Personified by Greta Thunberg, Gen Z’s concern for the climate crisis is matched only by their disillusionment at the level of inaction they feel is displayed by those in power. Youth disillusionment has increased sharply since the start of the pandemic, with 80% of young people reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety and disillusionment.3 Tellingly, more than two-thirds (67%) of Gen Z have spoken about the need for climate action at least once in the last few weeks and many wonder: is anyone listening to what we have to say?1

“Gen Z will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change, yet they feel unable to influence change in a meaningful way, as the business world is not engaging them enough,” says Gillian Hinde, EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader. “To accelerate environmental sustainability, we need to hear Gen Z’s perspectives and capitalize on their energy and ideas, now and as they become future leaders.”

Changing the curriculum


of Gen Z would like environmental literacy taught at school.

To accelerate environmental sustainability, we need to hear Gen Z’s perspectives and capitalize on their energy and ideas, now and as they become future leaders.
Gillian Hinde
EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader
Woman sitting at table using laptop

Engaging future leaders in setting the sustainability agenda

EY Future Skills Workshops and Climate Ideation Clinics support environmental sustainability.

This is the motivation behind EY Climate Ideation Clinics, an EY Ripples initiative in which future leaders are engaged to bring their fresh perspectives to real-world sustainability business challenges.

At the clinics, university students can examine the climate emergency through a new lens, voice their concerns about the climate crisis, and constructively work together to ideate actionable plans. They learn how climate change affects specific sectors and how companies are responding to the climate emergency. Small groups collaborate to come up with answers to sector-specific environmental problem statements; they then present their ideas and vote on the best ones, which feed into EY insights and inform the work we do with clients.

So far in 2021, EY Climate Ideation Clinics have engaged hundreds of young people across the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and Singapore — and they have generated many ideas.

  • Gen Z ideas for the financial services sector

    Financial services institutions are already implementing initiatives to address climate risks, ranging from helping businesses with low-carbon transition to developing new financial products, such as low-interest mortgage rates for properties that meet certain environmental standards. Gen Z participants also suggested:

    • Implementing credit card green incentives and reward programs, in partnership with sustainable companies to promote and support them
    • Introducing incentives to support environmental projects, such as correlating interest on loans with the recipient’s carbon emission intensity or introducing borrowing conditions that require borrowers to support greentech firms
    • Reinvesting interest to support clean energy or sustainable products
  • Gen Z ideas for the consumer products sector

    Consumers expect brands to lead the way in driving positive environmental outcomes, especially when it comes to the products they sell. Gen Z participants suggested:

    • Creating a digital data collection system across product value chains to record sustainability metrics, providing rewards/incentives based on the quality of data provided
    • Developing apps that track the circularity of products and their components, such as number of times appliances or products have been reused, while providing information on sustainable product disposal
    • Using a traffic light system to measure and communicate product lifecycle sustainability, including emissions from the whole supply chain, ethics and the reusability of a product and its components

For younger students, EY Future Skills Workshops equip those aged 5-24 with skills to navigate our changing world. Lessons are designed to facilitate conversation about environmental challenges and increase young people’s confidence to play an active role in climate solutions. Topics such as “Energy for change” and “Conscious consumption” empower them to create positive change for the environment through everyday actions. Working in collaboration with third parties and after-school programs, EY people facilitate these sessions as a knowledge exchange, sharing their experience, while actively seeking the ideas, responses, and reactions of Gen Z participants.

Since launching, over 100 EY people have run these workshops, positively impacting more than 1,150 lives in Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Japan, Zimbabwe and Italy.

Empowering future leaders


of young people who participated in EY Climate Ideation Clinics better understand the role that business plays in the climate emergency.

Cars and buses in an modern green city

Helping to accelerate the next generation of climate action

EY Ripples is creating long-term value for diverse stakeholders.

“It’s vital that we help the next generation to participate in the green economy by teaching them skills to design a better future and create value from sustainability,” says Steve Varley, EY Global Vice Chair — Sustainability. “What’s great to see is that, after participating in these EY Ripples sessions, young people and EY people alike are reporting that they found the activities valuable and inspiring.”

Young people reported that their understanding of environmental sustainability following the sessions increased from 74% to 87%. A university career coach was grateful that the clinics “exposed students to real-world problems.” Finally, EY facilitators have said that they were “proud to be part of it,” that “it really adds a lot to the EY experience,” and that it was “a great opportunity to capture new environmental insights to pass on to EY colleagues and clients.”

These outcomes demonstrate that moving the needle on sustainability will require a different kind of education for the next generation — one that promotes environmental literacy while nurturing skills such as critical reasoning and problem solving, creativity and innovation, and communication and collaboration. In combination, these skills are increasingly important to ideating and scaling better answers to the interconnected challenges of climate change and social inequality.

Importantly, addressing these matters in the classroom is not only about solving problems for tomorrow. Engaging Gen Z in climate literacy today helps to ease their sense of disillusionment and concern, and gives them a pathway for taking meaningful action on the climate emergency, starting right now.

As the world seeks to tackle the climate emergency and create a new set of commitments at the UN Climate Change Conference this year (COP26), EY Ripples initiatives will continue bringing generations together, providing lifelong learning on sustainability and amplifying the voices of those who will be most impacted by climate change.

Find out about the EY commitment to net zero and how we’re working with clients on sustainability, creating long-term value and sustainable, inclusive growth.

Find out about opportunities to join us.

It’s vital that we help the next generation to participate in the green economy by teaching them skills to design a better future and create value from sustainability.

Contact us

Want to participate in an EY Climate Ideation Clinic? Get in touch.