The activist generation

Tim Balcon, CEO of IEMA. 

There’s a noisy, disruptive force gathering pace across the globe that cannot be ignored, led by Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who has effectively mobilised young people to rise and speak out. No longer voiceless, they are demanding immediate action – not just on climate change, but on the pervasive inequalities in society that threaten their futures. Is it any wonder they are angry?

And who are we to argue? For too long, my generation has been the problem generation that created a world our young people simply don’t fit into.

“We are working hard with our own young members, IEMA Futures, to ensure their voices are better heard”

The rooted acceptance that each generation should have a better standard of living than the one that came before it is no longer valid. Our complacency and inaction have put paid to that; the legacy we are leaving behind is not one I take any great pride in.

It is time to move to one side and let the younger generation participate in discussions that will determine their future. Together we must work faster and harder to address the many challenges we face – our current pace is just not good enough. We must look again at how we can facilitate change, and by what methods.

Closer to home, we are working hard with our own young members, IEMA Futures, to ensure their voices are better heard. We are also collaborating with other institutes on leading edge developments, such as our webinar on Climate-related Financial Disclosures later this month.

When we spoke to a group of students for this issue, one young activist claimed civil society and campaigners had “exhausted the avenues where they can create change”. In another feature, we ask: can private businesses act as ‘corporate citizens’ to help shape the future of society, using their power and influence to address the inequalities and challenges we face?

So what about us? Professional urgency is a justified objective and, I would add, a warranted response. We must directly face up to the fact that incremental change is not good enough and embrace radical change. IEMA will make its own contribution, working with our member-led Climate Change and Energy Network and the next generation on this critical challenge. We are going to be busy!


Tim Balcon is the CEO of IEMA

Back to Top