There has been a lot of buzz in the press recently about how Generation Y is reshaping capitalism. Millennials are demanding that companies be established to inherently provide social good as well as profit to shareholders.
A Stanford University study discovered that 90 per cent of millennial MBA students would take less pay in order to work for a company that better reflected their socially conscious value system. Other research has shown that 50 per cent of Generation Y try to buy products that support charities or social causes.
With 80 million millennials representing spending power in the $170 billion range annually, this is the largest generation in North American history. By 2020, its members will represent one out of every three adults on the continent. This socially responsible agenda is becoming harder and harder to ignore. In fact, the lines between activism and capitalism are blurring.
In our recently launched documentary, "Not Business As Usual," we made reference to this trend and highlighted several young entrepreneurs hell bent on evolving capitalism.
In the debate of socially responsible corporations versus those committed to unfettered capitalism, the baby boomers are often thrown under the bus. It was the 1980s, after all, that ushered in the peak of Milton Friedman profit-at-all-costs dogma. When history is written, the baby boomers will be known for the free-living 1960s and their subsequent capitalistic greed. It's not hard to understand how this happened.
The parents of the baby boomers grew up through world wars with lingering after-effects of the depression. Scarcity was the prevalent zeitgeist. All household items were reused and every cent was stretched. Those who were successful had stuff. The baby boomers grew up associating stuff with success. This mentality fuelled the excess of the 1980s.
I cannot look back and criticize. In every business book in every business school in the world, the mandate of business is solely to maximize profit for shareholders. The rule of the game CEOs of the last 50 years were playing was "profit at all costs." Social impact was something you considered afterwards, maybe. The baby boomers may not have considered people and planet but they raised a generation of self-actualized, mission-based children.
Generation Y may be changing the landscape but credit, however, must be extended to those brave few that started weaving social responsibility into business before it was popular.
In the height of the 1980s, a group of well-intentioned entrepreneurs gathered on a farm in Colorado to discuss the need for values-based corporations. It was at that meeting, 26 years ago, where the Social Ventures Network was founded. SVN is a community of the world's leading social entrepreneurs working together to create transformational innovation, growth and impact. SVN is credited with having spawned the conscious capitalism movement including, amongst many others, net impact groups, the carbon credit movement, and BCorporations.
If Generation Y is said to be rewriting the rules of capitalism, it was their parents that gave them the pens.