ICYMI — The Future of Climate Activism, an Anthem Panel

A recap of the insights and strategies explored in The Anthem Awards’ panel on mobilizing young generations to take climate action, featuring leaders from DoSomething and R/GA.

In celebration of Climate Week NYC, we hosted the panel discussion and networking event The Future of Climate Activism at Soho House with renowned youth activism organization DoSomething

The panel featured leading social impact experts DeNora Getachew, CEO of DoSomething, and Bayyina Black, Global Director of Sustainability and Impact at R/GA, in a thoughtful discussion moderated by Claire Graves, President of The Anthem Awards. 

As the world continues to experience harrowing climate events—from record-high temperatures to wildfires in Hawaii, Canada and Europe—it’s vital to amplify the work of changemaking climate activists and inspire others to get involved. We’re honoring this pivotal moment for climate activism by convening our community for a discussion on harnessing the voices of Generations Z & Alpha. 

ICYMI — we’ve summarized the insights shared by our community on how brands can take up the role of a climate leader and drive young people to take action.

1. Meet Young People Where They’re At 

Generations Z & Alpha are noted for their readiness to take action. Their energy for social impact is undeniable. Using your platform to amplify important issues is a standard they’ve set for all organizations.  

“It’s a given. They’re deeply digital. It is seen as essential that we talk about climate change and sustainability,” said Bayyina Black while reflecting on this new convention. ”It’s very natural for them—it’s not optional anymore.” 

Growing up on the web has shifted their perspectives on social impact issues. They’re coming into the world already aware of the weight of climate change, its leading causes, and the necessary changes we’ll have to make to address it. 

“The reality is, in a generation that’s digitally native, they don’t need their awareness raised,” said Denora Getachew. “They need solutions.” 

To speak to them effectively, focus on creating impact-centered work and mapping concrete ways out of the climate crisis. This is also critical because climate change is an intersectional cause. Young people hope to see dedicated and authentic work that addresses its impact in all its nuances—from its effect on the Global South to its role in youth mental health. Youth leaders are prepared to hold organizations and brands accountable to ensure their commitment to their initiatives. 

“Real change takes time,” said Getachew. “So we all have to think about how do we help those young people harness their power while still holding ourselves accountable that progress is happening and demonstrating it.” 

To remain accountable, your brand should authentically connect with a social cause. Think first about your organization’s role in your sector. Analyze the mark it’s making and think about how to make that outcome positive. Holding yourself accountable also means ensuring your work resonates with younger audiences and effectively addresses the issues they care about. 

As Black said, it’s essential to include “Gen Z and Gen Alpha in advisory boards, getting their opinions of what they value, and then always thinking of ways to show that they’re listening.” 

Find the role youth play in the cause you’ve aligned with and center their voices in your project. You have to meet young people where they are. Otherwise, they’ll tune out.

DeNora Getachew (left), Bayyina Black (middle) and Claire Graves (right) discuss with The Anthem Awards community.

2. Embrace the Many Forms of Climate Advocacy

A vital way to harness young people’s drive for sustainability is to push them into civic engagement. Beyond just participating in primary elections, also encourage them to follow up on the local and national policies resulting from them. 

“If we don’t fundamentally understand that when you leave that voting booth, it’s not game over,” said Getachew. “You have to do the real work. Literally and metaphorically roll up your sleeves, use the technology and the tools at your disposal to hold your elected officials accountable.” 

It’s about fostering a culture of working within the systems we have to create long-lasting change while overcoming obstacles we face. Encouraging young people to get involved makes sure they remain engaged at every step in the fight against climate change.

If young people don’t practice and be engaged, they’re not going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Getachew said while sharing DoSomething’s work in educating and encouraging youth civic participation. 

But, climate advocacy can take on several forms. It can look like legislative action but also like writing an op-ed on a pertinent issue and its solution. It can look like distributing the resources folks need to participate in activism. From the boardroom to the grassroots, tackling climate change requires work from different perspectives. 

Thinking of engaging with climate activism as a long-term commitment is also crucial to showing up resiliently. Taking breaks is essential. Plugging joy into the work makes it fulfilling. Expecting to transform climate issues overnight only leads to burnout—and it’s pivotal to emphasize this while working with youth to build enduring change. 

“Being a lot more honest about what we need and what makes us happy. What does your sustainable life look like?” said Black. “Am I doing it in the most sustainable way possible? Am I doing it in a regenerative way, and in a way that I’m inviting young people into this.”  

Making the work restorative is paramount to taking action without fatigue. As young people tend to be more progressive in social movements, we must encourage them to conserve their energy and apply it meaningfully in their work. This ensures their social impact involvement remains consistent at every step.

The 3rd Annual Anthem Awards is a celebration of the intersectional nature of social impact—that Change is a Chain Reaction. We’re thrilled to bring our community together to discover unique ways to address climate change by spotlighting youth voices. 

To amplify your impact work on our global stage, enter your projects by the Extended Deadline on Friday, October 13th!

Patagonia – Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia has put social impact at the core of their brand mission and values from the start, and their iconic Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign demonstrates how brands can use their platform to make an impact — or better yet, to help reduce our impact. This 2011 ad ran in the New York Times on Black Friday, making a lasting impression for its bold message addressing the issue of consumerism head on and asking readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

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Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels Movement

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Read our Q&A with Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s Chief Campaign Development Officer on the team behind LHNL collaborates with partners to combat implicit bias—from crafting PSAs to driving viewers to take action, to how brands and companies should approach corporate social responsibility with authenticity.

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