To be a “boomer” AND feel a huge responsibility

My son regularly chooses to let the expression “boomer” mark the end of an exchange of views. He is 21, on his way through the education system and hopeful for the future – thankfully.

Boomer as a concept has evolved from being a mass term for the generation born before the mid-60s to summarizing an explosive exchange of views between generations. But it is also a concept that gives food for thought.

To be or not to be a boomer

I’m really too young to belong to the boomer generation but still has to defend their neglect. And so, it must be. But the discussion of whether the older generation has taken its responsibility seriously is on my mind. It helps emphasizing the need to ask the following questions:

When have we really contributed to a sustainable future as individuals?

When have we delivered on the responsibilities that skills and abilities commit to?

Is it when we have dutifully sorted the waste at home or at work?

Is it when we have taken care of our children’s education or the integration of young or new colleagues in the workplace?

Is it when we have reconsidered the need for a new kitchen, a new sofa or opted for the electric car or the vegetarian menu?

Is it when we have re-evaluated existing business models and rethought them in an environmentally sustainable context?

Or is it when we dutifully show the UN’s world goals on the reverse, and vote in favor of the proposal to balance economic and environmental goals in the forthcoming strategy?

In the business of good

I feel privileged. I have both in my own career with i.e. LEGO and JYSK and in my work as a board member seen a far more nuanced picture than the insult “boomer” indicates.

Not everyone in this generation is greedy, selfish and short-sighted “bandits in suits”. Today, I work with owner-managers to whom it is not only their life mission to create a successful business, but also to create meaningful jobs and take responsibility in society.

In SME Denmark, the examples of this are extensive, widely branched, but also in many cases overlooked.

In my work, I meet these owner-managers and companies who really make a difference. From the company, where 10 per cent. of the employees are colleagues who are actively locked into the workplace from the edge of the labour market, to the collection of textiles or workwear based on recycled plastic bottles, to irrigation systems based on recycled rainwater to innovative energy saving solutions based on digitization and LED technology for phasing out oil-based products.

It does not have to be complicated. For many people, it is often five simple questions that drive development:

Material selection – what can we do to switch to recycled materials?

Waste management – what can we do to make it as recyclable as possible?

Energy use – what can we do to reduce our consumption and use green energy sources?

Business models – what can we do to increase the use of machinery, goods, furniture, or anything else before it is discarded?

Diversity among colleagues – what can we do to give young people, the elderly, minorities, other vulnerable people the opportunity to connect with the labor market?

The power of good examples

I can well understand that the younger generation is looking at us shaking their heads.

The past 30 years of focus on Performance Management has painted a very special picture of which values ​​have been in focus.

I believe in the fact that, we as leaders, have social as well as material values at work, and I have prioritized to choose managers, leaders and companies who have something on their minds besides the bottom-line figures.

It has never motivated me to just go to work to fill shareholders’ pockets. It has motivated me to be part of a team that creates good results and at the same time has more on their minds.

It is time that we show that there is more to life – and that even if you are born before the fall of the Berlin wall, you can still think about sustainability and not just the bottom line figures.

So, let’s get more inspiring stories out from the business world because we hear far too little about the many SMBs and owner-managers who take responsibility for society, the environment and each other.