Skip to content
Thomson Reuters
UN Sustainable Development Goals

Youth Perspective: How millenials can advance the SDG agenda

Justin Fan

30 May 2017

The UN called 2016 “the year of green finance”, in response, China has said it is aiming to develop its economy sustainably. Recent history shows global leaders need to do more in transforming their countries and companies to meet the demands of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Should young people just stand by, and wait and see what they do?

The answer is no.

As a young professional in my previous job I worked with senior business leaders to develop a green agenda for policy makers and large corporations in China.


  • The first phase is to create an Employee Resource Group for your business.

6 years ago, I initiated a “Green” themed volunteer group in China and recruited a few young professionals who valued sustainability to form the core team. Through the years, we’ve been driving all kinds of sustainability related efforts in the local community. For instance; running an educational recycling campaign with a social enterprise backed by the World Bank.

Last year we decided to do more – to look at the role of finance in helping to drive business towards achieving social good in the local and the wider society.

  • The second phase is to drive product and social innovation.

The employee volunteer group teamed up with experts to champion social innovation. We gained support from senior management and  run workshops and competitions to encourage 1,000 employees in China to create new forms of socially responsible business by developing new products or services which can be used by corporations to evaluate their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) impact whilst improving their ‘financial’ and ‘sustainability’ business performance.

  • The third phase is to leverage global and local partnerships.

We researched the resources needed across our company (e.g., existing ESG database, applied innovation and emerging technology) to implement the new ideas.  And we approached the senior executives and the Thomson Reuters China Leadership Team, presenting them with our vision and plan in order to gain their support.

We are also worked with external business leaders, Chinese politicians and think tanks directly or indirectly to develop a green finance framework for business which will also benefit society.

A primary goal was to encourage more transparency by introducing a set of financial regulations for more than 5,000 companies listed on the China and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges to report not just on financial results, but also on their environmental and social impact.

This is more common practice in Western society. But it is not in China (yet) and will help Chinese business move towards a more sustainable business model.

Through these three processes; (i) Employee Resource Group, (ii) innovation, and  (iii) leveraging partnerships, young employees are raising awareness of the value of sustainable business, are educating themselves and other stakeholders on how global businesses should be committed corporate citizens moving forward.

We should drive innovation-enabled business to make a social impact. We, millennial professionals, are beginning to take responsive and responsible leadership and engaging the community and environment to drive the SDG agenda.

Who do you think should play the biggest role in making global business go green? Government? Business leaders? No, young leaders like us.

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Going for Goals: businesses and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Youth Perspective: Giving a Voice to Indigenous Women Artisans: Q&A with Voz EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Restoring education to Brazil’s lost generation: Q&A with Tamboro EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: UN Environment statement on US decision to leave Paris Agreement EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: 17 Campaigns for 17 Goals – Synergizing Campaigns for Agenda 2030