Native or Immigrant

I once heard a teacher tell me that in the world of technology, we (anyone over the age of 35, or probably younger) are technology immigrants and our children are technology natives.  “We” get a new piece of technology and sweat over trying to figure it out, all the while probably not using it to its full potential.  We pour over manuals and look for tech support where ever we can find it.  But just hand the piece of new technology over to children and they jump in happily, whizzing through the process of using it in all its glory. 

Yesterday, when I was speaking at the MPI-CAC (Meeting Professionals International – Chicago Area Chapter) knowledge share event, I had an epiphany.  The topic was Sustainability, and even though everyone in attendance new about the term, they really didn’t have a handle on what it meant.  I also noticed that many worked for companies with sustainability as some part of their brand, but the message and actions didn’t trickle down past the executive offices.  My epiphany is that maybe “We” are sustainability immigrants and our children are sustainability natives!  The Environment/Planet part of the sustainability equation is already deeply engrained in their lives.   They learn about it in schools, on cartoons and through their role models. 

On the larger scale of business, sustainability is only adopted if it produces measurable benefits to the bottom line.  The U.S. doesn’t mandate carbon reporting and the rules set by the EPA are often fought by big corporations fighting change.  The only companies participating in the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) are those who do business globally, because other countries restrict their business if they don’t. 

I have seen and continue to see the sustainability movement thrive throughout all aspect of life, and I am convinced it will continue to grow.  I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years (when the natives grow into positions of power), before we bridge the gap between talking about sustainability and actually operating sustainably.