More than half of Generation Z (51%) and nearly half of Generation Alpha (44%) rely on social media—not school—as the primary source of their sustainability education. Social media is less trusted as a source of sustainability knowledge than TV news and school education of all generations. More than a quarter of both Gen Z and Gen Alpha cite schools and teachers as the top source they would like to learn more about sustainability from
Younger generations rely more on social media than school education for sustainability education, according to a new report by the EY organization in partnership with JA Worldwide, one of the world’s largest youth NGOs.
The Generational Sustainability Survey surveyed more than 1,200 cross-generational respondents from 72 countries in the Americas, EMEIA and Asia Pacific regions. The participants’ environmental and climate concerns were highlighted, as well as their ideas for improving sustainability education. It found that school systems could do more to help younger generations understand the importance of sustainability and take positive action by offering more workshops and hands-on learning in the classroom.
Despite concerns about the quality of sustainability education in schools – only about half of both Generation Alpha and Generation Z say they are satisfied with it – the survey found that respondents from the younger generation believe they have a deeper knowledge of global sustainability issues than older generation respondents. Almost a quarter of Generation Alpha respondents said they were either very or very aware of global environmental practices, compared to 10% of Generation X respondents and just 4% of Baby Boomer respondents.
All generations surveyed indicated that they were willing to take action to combat climate change, such as eating less meat, recycling or reducing air travel. However, respondents from the younger generation lagged behind respondents from the other generation in their willingness to act. Generation 44%) were willing to make the same commitment.
Julie Linn Teigland, EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner, says:
“Today’s younger generations are the driving force behind moving towards a more sustainable future, but translating their enthusiasm into meaningful and lasting change is not easy. Organizations of all kinds – from governments and corporations to NGOs and educators – must be willing to work together to improve young people’s environmental literacy. Coordinated action to improve education and training, designed to engage these new generations, will be critical to building a more sustainable world.”
More than three-quarters of Gen Alpha (82%) and Gen Z (76%) respondents said they believe education plays a crucial role in leading a more sustainable life. To improve environmental education standards, the report argues that businesses, governments and NGOs should work with school systems to develop ongoing activities designed to give students first-hand experience of what they can do to improve environmental sustainability promote globally as well as locally.
Asheesh Advani, CEO of JA Worldwide says:
“Young people are not only future world leaders, but also today’s leading voices for sustainability and climate justice. But they need the help of older generations, educators and businesses to learn how to gain more knowledge through trusted sources, advocate effectively and work with allies. Our recent collaboration with EY underscores these needs and lays the foundation for helping Gen Z achieve their goals.”
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