The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

A Purposeful Future

By Bruna Capozzoli

Digital Strategist

 

 


Millennials, those aged roughly between 26 and 40, and Generation Z (11- to 25-year-olds) now make up over half the world’s population. Gradually taking over senior positions in the media industry, they also represent the majority of a highly-skilled tech workforce. They are the ones behind the most successful start-ups, and they are the new parents. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 calls them the ‘Generation Disrupted’, characterised by a lack of faith in traditional societal institutions, governments and business leaders, as well as a growing dissatisfaction within their own lives, financial situations, jobs and social media.

On a global scale, the rise in populism, the climate emergency and the economic obsession with growth that has been failing the vast majority while serving only a few, have jointly nourished an overall sense of uneasiness and discontent; reasons why Millennials and Gen Z, are, therefore, taking it upon themselves to design a purpose-focused culture for business, consumption and social experiences.

In 2018, the first wake up call for our industry came in the form of Greta Thunberg. At the age of 15, she became the ultimate symbol of climate activism. Though many indigenous, black, and brown youth activists, such as Jamie Margolin, Mari Copeny, Xiye Bastida, Isra Hirsi, Kevin J. Patel and Elsa Mengistu had also been working tirelessly on to championing the same cause. Nevertheless, content makers responded to Thunberg, and we are now about to witness a new boom in eco-conscious content aimed at kids. But these new 'green shows' are only a tentative attempt to retain relevance. Real transformation requires inner change, and the time has now come for companies to assess their values and the impact their activities have on the world around them.

The reality is that the perception about what a company actually stands for is already disrupting business, workforce, strategy and investment. The ways in which capital is raised, how success is measured, how businesses are structured and how key talent is hired and retained, are changing. The traditional capital-focused mindset is being replaced by new metrics, such as environmental impact, a company’s mission and people policy.

Back in 2016, a survey titled 'The Business Case for Purpose’, drafted by a team from the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services for the EY's Beacon Institute, declared that "companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage."

In 2018, investors put US$1bn into purpose-driven corporations in just six months alone, with nearly every major Silicon Valley venture-capital firm investing in certified B Corporations. These are businesses that balance purpose and profit and are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Year-on-year data from 2018 also shows that UK B Corps grew at a rate of 14% compared to the country’s GDP growth rate of 0.5%, suggesting that customers are actively choosing to spend more money with ethical businesses, while employers are achieving higher results within these companies.

Meanwhile, in the kids’ media business, the UK’s Aardman, responsible for Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, made the headlines after handing over a 75% stake in the business to their 140 employees. While the deal assures the company’s independence and helps avoid the usual route of growing its value for a potential sale (a common practice that solely benefits shareholders and leaves employees on the side lines) - this strategy also brings the entire team to the forefront of the business, retaining and attracting talent and encouraging and rewarding productivity.

When it comes to family and children’s content, high-quality entertainment will always be the leading criteria for consumption, but new ingredients are now being added to the mix. In 2019, research produced by The Shift Project, named “Climate Crisis: The Unsustainable Use of Online Video”,  revealed alarming data about the hidden environmental impact of online video consumption. It was found that the yearly greenhouse gas emissions of combined VoD services are equivalent to those produced by a country the size of Chile. Up until now, the size of libraries and price points have been the main weapons in the streaming war. But finding more eco-friendly solutions to limit emissions could deliver a significant competitive advantage, especially given consumers’ willingness to switch brands to those which are purpose-driven.

Elsewhere, toy companies need to recognise and respond to a fast-rising movement against plastics that is shaping consumer behaviour. With 40% of Millennials and Generation Z consumers reporting that a business goal should be to improve society, it makes sense for the toy industry to recognise the investment in eco-toys and the eradication of plastic as their first priorities. While giants such as Hasbro, Mattel and Lego have been either too slow or too restrained in their initiatives, newcomers like BioBuddi, a European eco-friendly toy company that uses materials made from sugar cane waste in the manufacture of its product range, are showing that 100% plastic- free toys are already a reality.

It is undeniable that this new decade holds more challenges than solutions - especially as the world contends with the COVID-19 pandemic - but an entrepreneur is disruptive by nature. A desire to start a business comes from seeing a better way of doing something or identifying something new that needs doing.

With this in mind, I can only hope that the search for purpose will disrupt our industry, while also inspiring growth within the premise of serving the common good and finding new creative solutions for a more egalitarian society and ecological balance. After all, the kids’ entertainment industry should have children’s wellbeing at its heart and working to ensure a liveable future for them should inform all our business decisions.
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