EY: Joining the battle on youth unemployment

You may remember I posted some time ago on the accession of Mark Weinberger as Chairman and CEO of EY, accompanied by a new brand identity and a clearly articulated purpose of ‘building a better working world’.

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ll also have guessed by now my penchant for – and belief in the superior value to be created by – putting purpose at the heart of profit; my belief that, in its broadest sense, ‘sustainability’ is nothing more or less than a perspective on brand and business strategy that inextricably links long-term success with serving a higher social purpose.

For me, that suggests three essential areas of focus in a business context – three preconditions for achieving enduring, sustainable growth:

  • People – In the end, it’s people who create and sustain businesses, and the societies and economies to which they contribute. Lasting, meaningful growth depends on the ideas and ingenuity of talented people in all their diversity.
  • Purpose – That ingenuity should be directed towards delivering social progress. Why does your business exist (beyond making money)? How does what you do, and how you do it, benefit the world? If you ceased to exist tomorrow, why should anyone care? While business models and strategies may come and go, this essential ‘reason for being’ should be constant, as it’s the only sustainable way to unite and motivate all the people a business touches.
  • Planet – If we continue to deplete natural resources, without consideration for their long-term sustainability, then no-one will prosper. Enduring growth also depends on innovating new business models that decouple that growth from environmental degradation.

With regard to the former – and particularly in the context of ‘building a better working world’ – tackling youth unemployment is about as material as it gets. After all, how can anyone claim to be doing so without recognising that this is (as EY’s EMEIA Managing Partner, Mark Otty, puts its) one of the most intractable economic and social challenges we face today?

It’s why youth unemployment justifiably sits atop the EU political agenda. It’s why improving the employment prospects for youth in the Middle East – where more than half the population is under the age of 25 – was a key pillar of the sustainability strategy I helped formulate for one of Saudi Arabia’s leading mobile phone operators a few years ago. It’s why ‘breaking barriers to work’ is similarly a pillar of other leading sustainability strategies like M&S’ Plan A.

It’s also why EY joined the battle on youth employment yesterday, joining the Alliance for YOUth, becoming a signatory to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, and pledging to offer 55,000 traineeships and 35,000 paid internships for young people across Europe by 2020.

I think that’s a fabulous proof-point for the promise to help build a better working world, and one that makes me proud to be associated with EY.

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