Business Youth for Engaged Sustainability to Achieve the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • George L. De FeisEmail author
Living reference work entry


Sustainable development is often defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Three main pillars of “sustainability” are “social, environmental, and economic,” which are often referred to informally as “people, planet, and profits.” Indeed, there is no larger initiative to face the planet than achieving “global sustainable development” amidst globalization issues and no larger untapped force than Business Youth. Many youth programs exist – Enactus, the Future Business Leaders of America, Junior Achievement, Operation Enterprise, United Nations Youth Unit – all striving toward the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include quality education (No. 4), industry innovation and infrastructure (No. 9), and partnerships for the goals (No. 17). Perhaps there could be no greater facilitator in this realm than the creation of a nonprofit organization, called Business Youth for Sustainable Development (BY4SD). An international business youth organization will have the energy to get it done by assembling the youth at business schools, state organizations, regional organizations, national organizations, and international organizations, which could help “shift the paradigm” for all. The concept of “sustainable development” was reborn in 2012 at the “Rio + 20 Convention” in Rio de Janeiro, where it was “christened” 20 years before at the 1992 Earth Summit. The concept, though, was born to the world in the 1987 book, Our Common Future from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). This chapter will present an overview of existing business youth organizations, their work toward achieving the United Nations SDGs, and propose the concept and the need for BY4SD.


Civic engagement Corporate social responsibility Earth Summit Haves Have-nots Globalization Malthusian theory of population Personal social responsibility Service-learning Sustainability Sustainable development Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) United Nations 


The concept of “sustainable development ” has been talked about for many years, but the conception of the term was put forth in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, formerly known as the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED) , which issued their magnum opus, Our Common Future. The term has come to mean, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Our Common Future was this UN body’s assessment – after much analysis, synthesis, and expert testimony from industrialists, scientists, NGO representatives, and the general public – of the dismal future within our commonality. In other words, we were on an unsustainable path.

This 1987 work leads to the 1992 Earth Summit , formerly known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro. The result of the Rio meeting was “hugs and kisses” for all who attended from 172 countries, with 108 heads of state, and a final document: Agenda 21. Agenda 21 set forth our uniform marching orders to reverse the unsustainable path we were making with our current development practices.

The 1996 Kyoto Protocol on climate change followed, with less participation than the Earth Summit – the United States did not participate for fear that participating would lead to a “reduction” it its way of life. The protocol’s result was agreement that mandatory targets on greenhouse gas emissions for the world’s leading economies were set and accepted. Not the United States. There the much less hugging and kissing.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006), “Rio + 20,” and An Inconvenient Sequel (2017) followed – all striving to accomplish the elusive goal of “sustainable development.” This goal may have been set forth by our senior colleagues, and we may all agree what the goal is, but we cannot achieve the said goal without the concerted effort of all individuals and from all classes of people. The “haves,” “have-nots,” industrialized, nonindustrialized, senior folk, junior folk, man, woman, and we must involve “youth.” In fact, the United Nations put forth its “17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);” all of them need the input of “youth.” My concept is the development of “business youth” programs, worldwide, to achieve the sustainable development needs for which we have been seeking.

Three-Legged Stool of Sustainable Development

The confluence of the three needed constituent parts of the sustainable development includes social, environment, and economic (2006). Some consider this as the “triple bottom line” (3Ps): people, planet, and profits of sustainability (social/people, environment/planet, economic/profit) (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Three-legged stool of sustainable development (

We must remember that all three are needed in equal portions to accomplish sustainability. Anything less is not lasting, for it is either bearable, equitable, or viable, but not sustainable.

Preceding Sustainable Development

The environment has been considered for years and years and years, from Thomas Robert Malthus, who wrote, An Essay on the Principle of Population, published in the 1800s to Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, and our national parks have been considered greatly. Having just returned from Muir Woods (January 2018), one can imagine what the world would look like if we focused on sustainable development all of our lives, from infancy to youth to adulthood. Of course, we took a turn for the worst with Silent Spring (Rachel Carson 1962), Three Mile Island (1979), Love Canal (1980), Chernobyl (1986), Exxon Valdez (1989), and BP Oil Spill (2010). The world’s environment is very considered and always current.

Environment Part

Population Growth (Thomas Robert Malthus)

The Malthusian theory of population shows that while our food production and resources grow at sort of an arithmetic rate, the population is growing exponentially. What will happen when the needs of the population outpace the availability of our food production and resources? Some say it has. Will conflict, violence, and wars become inevitable? A famous quote of Malthus from 1798:

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one might blow levels the population with the food of the world.

Not the kind of person you would invite to your party for levity and a good time.

Graph of Malthusian Theory of Population

But when the needs of the population exceed the available resources – see Figs. 2 and 3 – trouble may result.
Fig. 2

World population from 1800 to 2100, based on UN 2004 projections (red, orange, green) and US Census Bureau historical estimates (black) (By Tga.D based on Aetheling’s work – based on file:World-Population-1800–2100.png, but converted to SVG using original data from U.N. 2010 projections and US Census Bureau historical estimates, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Social Part

The social element came home to roost clearly with the advent of the Internet and advanced modern technology: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – noting Facebook’s recognition when the discussion on the Arab Spring comes up. So with a “shrinking of the world” due to social media, ending of the Cold War, which caused many countries (and their people) bonding together in trade, EU, NAFTA, and ASEAN, hence the social element is indeed addressed.

The social part is still growing, and people are making significant headway in all sorts of realms, from the LGBTQ area to the Donald Trump Presidency to the 2018 “Me Too” movement.

Economic Part

But the economic component, which includes business, has not yet been as advanced as it should be. The fact is that someone has to pay, and it will take time to get there. Differences between haves and have-nots, developed and lesser developed, individualist and collectivist, and more remind us of differences which will take years to decipher. Thus, business and business youth, who have the time and longevity ahead, have a key role to play.

But how to get business youth involved???

Youth Programs for Achieving the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Amidst Globalization

There is no larger initiative for us to face than “Global Sustainable Development,” and, indeed, no greater project than the creation of a nonprofit organization, called “Business Youth for Sustainable Development” (BY4SD). Nonprofits and social enterprises, which are not profit driven, are hence much more balanced in doing what is right and are at the heart of this project.

A youth organization will assemble the youth at business schools, first locally then statewide, then regionally, and then nationally, into a knowledgeable and then action-oriented cadre of cogs in the wheels grinding toward achieving sustainable development . The outcomes will be many, but here are a few:
  • New business courses, highlighting “sustainability” to advance our schools and differentiate them from other business schools

  • New articles and books co-written by students and faculty

  • New financial support, attracted through grants, to advance “BY4SD” to become a “sustainable” part of the business community

The topic of sustainability interested the world’s diverse interests in a multitude of standpoints – the haves and have-nots, collective interests and individual interests, long term vs. short term, etc. “BY4SD” will engage youth (students), who want to “DO,” and engage in service-learning and make an impact in managing our collective efforts toward achieving sustainable development. The functions and concepts of the POLC of management are the same – planning, organizing, leading, and controlling – but the mode is very different. Getting individual youth and students involved and energized through service-learning will introduce the topic of personal social responsibility (PSR) , in addition to CSR (corporate social responsibility ), whose challenges will be addressed by individual. CSR is more well known and involves the corporation. PSR could rightly be a component of organizational behavior, which focuses on individuals within organizations. The corporate social responsibility and personal social responsibility components were based on the growing interest in Eugene Lang’s vision of “service-learning and civic engagement ,” which is absolutely imperative for our growth in the globally interconnected world of the twenty-first century ( This mantra will engage students, who want to “DO,” which is service-learning, and make an impact in managing our collective efforts toward achieving sustainable development.

This concept will consider integrating and raising awareness of the issues around scarcity of resources, environmental costs (contingent liabilities, potential taxes on emissions), markets in environmental attributes (carbon credits, wetland rights, air pollution rights, etc.), employee morale (many employers believe that sustainable practices are important to the generation of new hires), green marketing (separating authentic brand equity in sustainability form claims based on little evidence), etc. To me, sustainability, like ethics, is best understood from a business perspective by integrating it into the basic disciplines.

Various pedagogical models have not been successful for this topic, so my opinion is based on my experience and observation about how sustainability is dealt with in a business context and how it would be most relevant to OUR students. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); United Nations Development Program (UNDP); United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Environmental Advocates of New York; Environmental Defense League (NY); Nature Conservancy (NY); Citizens Campaign for the Environment (NY); Center for Clean Air Policy (NY); Earth Justice (NY); etc. are key influential players.

Globalization Considerations for Youth

First of all, we must discuss the issues that abound because of globalization, starting in earnest with the creation of the Internet and the end of the Cold War (De Feis, Grunewald, De Feis 2016) and the diminishment of communism. Surely, even China, which in the 1970s was referred to as “Red China,” indicating extensive communism, is more or less “red, white, and blue China,” now, with entry into the World Trade Organization in 2002, and the for-profit entrepreneurial success of Alibaba (, for instance. But how are the benefits of globalization shared by the industrialized versus the nonindustrialized world, leading to arguments for and against, posed emphatically by Bhagwati and Stiglitz. Needless to say, there are some adverse impacts of globalization on countries that do derive positive benefits. Still some countries fail to benefit, but youth will play a specific role.

Globalization is all around us, and it is here to stay, and it should be harnessed by the youth of the world, so we must work toward recognizing it as an influence in today’s world. Also, globalization may be one of the moderating variables toward achieving sustainable development, which again is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). That is, the more globalization is embraced, the better are our chances for reaching the goals of sustainable development. If less globalization (and more protectionism) is supported, our youth will suffer, and indeed the worse are our chances (De Feis 2014, 2015).

With the fall of communism, culminating with the end of the Soviet Union, with the Soviet leaders voting communism out of existence in 1991; the Berlin wall being dismantled in 1989, further spurring the breakdown of the world’s trade barriers; bonding together of countries (EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, etc.); and, now, social media, there have been resulting increases in international business, multinational business, and globalized pursuits. Globalization can be seen as “global competition characterized by networks that bind countries, institutions, and people in an interdependent global economy” (Deresky 2017). It is the youth today who will reap the bigger and more sustained benefits of the fall of communism.

But the question is: will the benefits of globalization for the industrialized and nonindustrialized world aid in the ultimate quest to achieve “sustainable development?” Long before the present day, the world was very simple and very static; now the world has become very complex and very dynamic. Our customers are no longer our neighbors for our local neighborhood, as they come from all over the world. Our suppliers, too, are from all over the world. If we think about the external environment – task (industry) environment, general (societal) environment, and natural environment – and the impacts that globalization has had on all aspects of it, we can see why it is the ubiquitous calling of our day.

Youth will see it through, as they will be around. When communism fell in the 1990s, and the world moved more toward a free-market realm, it is the older folks who yearned for the return of a “planned economy.” Since it will take years for the vast benefits of a free-market mentality to take hold, the older folks do not have years to spare, so naturally they would prefer the “cradle to grave” guarantee, albeit there are the hardships of reduced freedoms.

The general (societal) environment has elements in it like technological issues, demographics, economic issues, and globalization – yet globalization impacts all of the other forces. Globalization and technological issues – we have the countries who are classified as “haves” and the countries that are “have-nots” – are brought together ever more forcefully with the Internet and the open communication of social media. Globalization and demographics – we have our changing population (less domestic and more global and international), changing desires (less homogeneity, more heterogeneity), and changing attitudes toward religions, cultures, and peoples. Globalization and economic issues – supply and demand issues, money supply issues, and currency exchange rates tie our countries together like no time before.

Trading blocks around the world are now common: the European Union, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Mercosur (Southern Market), CARICOM (Caribbean Market), and others. Barriers are being broken down along the way, with the efforts of the WTO (World Trade Organization) and its predecessor GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and even the United Nations leading the way. Ever since the decline of communism and the rise of democratic, free-market reforms, globalization has become part of the way of life.

In the task (industry) or specific environment, we have our customers, who are now global; our suppliers, who are now global; and our competitors, who are now global. Is this a good thing? And, globalization, apart from economic activity refers to other aspects of life. The circulation and distribution of information mainly through the Internet and the facilitation of communications among people from different corners of the Earth (e.g., social media) are simple examples, which validate the globalization concept. This international communication network allows the transmission of political and cultural ideology, the spreading of fashion trends, and the dissemination of ideas worldwide (Bitzenis 2004). However, globalization and related issues such as outsourcing are hotly debated topics, as there are perceived costs and benefits (pros and cons) (Langenfeld and Nieberding 2005). So, globalization is here to stay, and the reduction of trade barriers will yield a more peaceful existence for everybody. Or will it?

Are the Benefits of Globalization Equally Shared?

How benefits are shared by the “haves” and the “have-nots” deserves some mention, as we find it is not entirely mutual, or perhaps I should say equal. As the movement toward technological progress and open markets increases, globalization offers the developed countries greater productive benefit. Globalization is a pervasive factor on industrialization in the developing world. As the technology progresses and more markets open, globalization offers huge productive benefits to developed and developing countries. However, its effects are fairly uneven, and it is driving a divide between the relatively few successful countries and the others (Sanjaya 2004).

Development policy has to address these growing structural gaps and to reverse (or relax) the stringent rules of the game that constrain the use of previously successful industrial policy. Such successful industrial policies have taken many different forms, and countries have to choose the combinations that suit the demands of current globalization. Great differences, however, between “have” and “have-not” countries, really between the countries of the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively, will lead to changes in politics, economics, and social issues (Le Veness and Fleckenstein 2003), and this may not be equitable.

Also, today we must add terrorism into the mix as it has imposed a new tax on international business. As a result, the costs of globalization are rising, while the benefits are declining (Weidenbaum 2002). Globalization is the trend toward the increasing interdependence of national economies, and the concept is being considered by individuals, corporations, countries at large, and regions of the world (European Union, NAFTA, and others), as they have all become impassioned critics of multinational corporations.

But this is the easier challenge, which business and society have begun to change. The second challenge is newer and more dangerous, as it arises from the spread of international terrorism combined with the properly strong response to it. With Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and homegrown rebels, the world may have become too globalized. This combination is burdening the cross-border flow of people, goods, services, and money and is also increasing the risk associated with overseas investments. Are we reaching a new and negative turning point? It is too soon to say.

Surely, we should not underestimate the inventiveness and resourcefulness of private enterprise and individual entrepreneurs in responding to new challenges. Nevertheless, a review of the history of globalization reveals that the trend of world commerce is not inevitably upward. Some may say that by some indicators, the planet was more globalized a century ago, relative to today. Measured by trade and investment flows, the world economy was more integrated in the late nineteenth century than it is today. Before passports were generally required for crossing borders, people were far freer to travel and migrate than is now the case. (Since 9-11, I have traveled to Brazil, China, India, and elsewhere, and there was such security and fear of terrorism that you might think there is a benefit to protectionism.) The extent of economic interdependence across national boundaries, that is, globalization, did not decline in the early twentieth century because of mass protests or a bad press. The causes were far more fundamental – World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, and 9-11.

At the present time, a major shift is underway in the external environment faced by global businesses. It is a movement away from reducing the role of government in business and toward greater public sector involvement in the private sector. The sense of openness in global markets may thus be a casualty of the terrorist attacks. Surely combating terrorism means reducing the openness of borders and restricting or at least slowing down business and financial activities that cross national boundaries. A company that viewed itself as a global citizen is now thinking of its organization as a citizen of a specific nation, albeit with global activities. As a consequence, a shrinking of the previous overwhelming position of American businesses in global marketplace may also be underway (Weidenbaum 2002).

The most powerful benefit of the global economy has not been economic at all. It is the ability of people to exchange the most strategic of all factors (i.e., new ideas). That process empowers individuals in ways never before possible. That is why it is essential to maintain an open global marketplace. Youth will benefit most, as they have the length of time ahead of them, and they are not jaded by past philosophies of failed governmental systems. The promise of a better way of life will be believed by the youth group, as opposed to “older folks.” Yet, there are counterarguments “for globalization” and “against globalization.”

The Case for Globalization

The many benefits of globalization include encouraging lower prices for goods and services, stimulating economic growth, raising the income of consumers, and helping to create jobs in all countries that participate in the global trading system (Hill 2017). All of these benefits will be enjoyed by youth in greater abundance than older folk. In his work, In Defense of Globalization (Bhagwati 2004), Bhagwati told us: “globalization is the most powerful force for social good in the world.” Bhagwati could have focused the greater good on young people, than on older folks.

Furthermore, in his book, Making Globalization Work (Stiglitz 2006), the author puts forth radical new ways to deal with the severe indebtedness of developing nations and recommends a “new system of global reserves to overcome international financial instability that provides new proposals for addressing the current impasse in dealing with global warming – the most important threat to the world’s environment.” Arresting global warming is one of the benefits of achieving sustainable development (i.e., no fossil fuels). Again, Stiglitz could have focused his attention on the youth of the world. Stiglitz makes the case that treating developing countries more fairly is not only morally right, but it is also ultimately to the advantage of the developed world too.

There are many myths about the dangers of globalization (Weidenbaum 2001), and these include:

1. Globalization costs jobs.

2. Developed countries are hurt by imports.

3. Companies in developed countries are fleeing to low-cost areas overseas.

4. Companies in developed countries are polluting the environments of overseas areas.

5. Developed countries doing business overseas take advantage of local people

(especially in poor countries).

6. Trade deficits hurt the economies of countries.

7. Trade agreements should be used to raise environmental and labor standards worldwide.

8. The manufacturing base is eroding due to unfair global competition.

Each of these myths will now be addressed as follows:

Globalization costs jobs – The facts are sound, in a globalized country (e.g., United States), for instance, outside of the 2008 recession, which really affected much more than just the United States, relative to other countries, employment is at historic highs, and unemployment is at a 30-year low. Look at the US economy and others around the world in 2018.

Developed countries are hurt by imports – This is the mercantilist approach discredited by Adam Smith 200 plus years ago. The fact is that all benefit from imports, as consumers get a huge array of goods and services at optimal prices.

Companies in developed countries are fleeing to low-cost areas overseas – The flow of money to buy and operate factories (and other businesses) is increasingly into high-cost, but stable, areas (e.g., United States).

Companies in developed countries are polluting the environments of overseas areas – United States-owned and operated factories in foreign countries are among the leaders in working conditions and better environmental standards than locally owned firms. Also, when “cap and trade” is considered, the total amount of polluted effluent is within the allowable standard.

Developed countries doing business overseas take advantage of local people (especially in poor countries) – Much has been written about the “sweatshops” in Southeast Asia, but there are so many developing countries that compete vigorously for US firms to be located in their country, so they follow similar operating standards as at home. However, when they do not and that is disclosed, they are called to justice.

Trade deficits hurt the economies of countries – Our trade deficit is at a record high, but that does not hurt our standard of living for the prosperity we enjoy is as great as most anyone we deal with.

Trade agreements should be used to raise environmental and labor standards worldwide – It would be counterproductive to impose costly social regulations on developing countries as a requirement to do business, and the fact is that most countries, including developing countries, oppose these regulations.

Manufacturing base is eroding due to unfair global competition – The fact is that total industrial production is much higher now than in 1992 (World Bank 2017).

The Case Against Globalization

There is also the anti-globalization mind-set, who sees job losses in industries under attack from foreign competitors, downward pressure on the wage rates of unskilled workers, environmental degradation (and thereby no sustainable development), and the cultural imperialism of global media and multinational enterprises (and the taking advantage of the culturally impoverished) (Hill 2017). In this book, Globalization and Its Discontents (Stiglitz 2002), Stiglitz states: “the way globalization has been managed, including the international trade agreements that have played such a large role in removing those barriers and the policies that have been imposed on the developing countries in the process of globalization, needs to radically be rethought.”

Hence, there are certain negatives or consequences of globalization (Daly 2001), which are enumerated as follows:
  1. 1.

    Race to the bottom (standards-lowering competition)

  2. 2.

    Increased tolerance of mergers (leading to monopoly power)

  3. 3.

    Intense national specialization

  4. 4.

    Intellectual property right


Race to the bottom (standards-lowering competition) – Globalization does undercut the ability of nations to internalize environmental and social costs into prices, and instead economic integration, under free-market conditions, promotes standards-lowering competition. The externalization of environmental costs and social costs must be considered.

Increased tolerance of mergers (leading to monopoly power) – Encouraging the goal of “global competitive advantage” is used as an excuse for tolerance corporate mergers and acquisitions (leading to monopolies) in national markets. When recent US airline mergers are considered, in light of their international partners (alliances) with foreign carriers, oligopolistic tendencies could follow.

Intense national specialization – Free trade and free capital mobility increase pressures for specialization to gain or maintain a competitive advantage. As a result, globalization demands that workers accept a narrowing of the ways to earn a living.

Intellectual property rights – Shared knowledge increases the productivity of all labor, capital, and resources. Some may say, “What is wrong with that?” Also, international development aid should consist of “freely shared knowledge” and far less of foreign investment and loans, which countries default on. No one has ever defaulted on shared knowledge.

Adverse Impacts on Countries that Derive Positive Benefit from Globalization

Certainly, the United States and other countries have derived positive benefits from globalization, but that benefit has incurred some cost. You will never be able to convince a steel worker from Pittsburgh, who worked in a mill, that his job, which used to be located in Pittsburgh but, due to NAFTA, has now been outsourced to Mexico, that globalization is a good thing. The liberalization of trade, capital, and knowledge flows are having an adverse effect on employment.

Some argue that the pattern of increasing unemployment in most member countries of the European Community reflects a pervasive tendency toward delocalization of industries to low-wage countries and social dumping. “Social dumping” is a practice involving the export of a good from a country with weak or poorly enforced labor standards, where the exporter’s costs are artificially lower than its competitors in countries with higher standards, hence representing an unfair advantage in international trade (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions). The main finding in Europe is that the unemployment problem is rooted in the rigidness of the labor market itself. The increasing importance of international trade should provide an opportunity to reduce long-term labor market slack. To reap the potential benefits in this respect, European governments would need to reorient structural policies toward a better functioning of labor and product markets (Noord 1996). While we know the benefits of globalization are great, as we have technological advances and the spread of market-based economies, there are indeed risks.

There are new market opportunities with globalization, though competitive threats and diffusion of business models, associated with globalization, have existed for over the past decade (Jones 2002). Because of this, there are major forms of restructuring at the business level, and they include labor intensification, investment in new technologies, downsizing (also, reengineering), the formation of strategic alliances and networks, and a shift from international and multinational to global and transnational strategies. To be most effective, any type of restructuring must be clearly and explicitly aligned with a firm’s business-level strategy in order to maximize the efficient and effective allocation of resources in pursuit of competitive advantage. A strategic use of restructuring which links such efforts to broader competitive strategy should result in more sustainable benefits.

Some Countries Fail to Benefit

In recent years, we have seen substantial advances in the use of benefit-cost analysis to analyze why come countries fail to benefit. The analysis is used for development projects in a wide variety of situations around the world. In his article, “Implementing Benefit-Cost Analysis,” Jameson (1981) casts doubt on this easy assumption. It uses extensive empirical evidence taken from actual projects in one development institution, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to indicate that the slippage between best and actual practice may be substantial.

In recent years, USAID’s development assistance has focused primarily at the project level. There are a variety of arguments for such targeting, for example, efficiency in the use of funds or effectiveness of technical assistance. The great strides in theoretical treatments of benefit-cost analysis have not been translated into procedural and analytical changes in USAID. It is likely that other organizations are in a similar situation. The reasons for this situation are several: inappropriate use of the technique and misleading guidelines for its application, dominance of organizational interest over analytical requirement, inappropriate staffing and support for the analysis, and the use of the analysis as a tool in internal struggles.

United Nations: 17 Sustainable Development Goals – The Global Goals for Sustainable Development (

In 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are:
  • Goal 1: No Poverty

  • Goal 2: Zero Hunger

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

  • Goal 4: Quality Education

  • Goal 5: Gender Equality

  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

  • Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

  • Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  • Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  • Goal 13: Climate Action

  • Goal 14: Life Below Water

  • Goal 15: Life on Land

  • Goal 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institution

  • Goal 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goal

For each of these SDGs, there are international (and domestic) youth groups that address each SDG with gusto. Youth and youth groups are important to create a “change in life.” Remember, driving in the 1970s and before? No seat belt was required. But in 1984, New York becomes the first state to require the wearing of seat belts. Within a short amount of time, with the regular encouragement of youth to promote safety for mom and dad in automobiles, all got used to fastening them. Remember the commercials to stop smoking? Youth were employed to encourage older folk to stop. Youth – in numbers – is powerful.

Goal 1: No Poverty – End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere

The target is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.90 a day” (UN Division for Social Policy and Development Disability website). We need to take the lead from youth organizations like Enactus, which is “a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world” (ENACTUS website). Enactus is an acronym from “entrepreneurial, action, and us.” For example, an Enactus team in Swaziland developed a plan for vegetable production that would meet the local needs and would generate profits.

Enactus ( was founded 40 years ago and now has more than 72,000 student members, over 1700 college/university programs, in 36 countries. Enactus also has 550 corporate, organizational, and individual partners. The SIFE group (Students In Free Enterprise) merged with Enactus and now does activities all over the world.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger – End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition, and Promote Sustainable Agriculture

How we grow, what we grow, what we transport, and what we consume all need to be examined. The birth of “farmer’s markets” introduces us to sustainability in agriculture. I am on the board of such a not-for-profit farmer’s market – AirSoilWater (, whose origination initiation involved youth at several schools in Pennsylvania. As we speak, soils, clean water, forests, and what we need to support our increasing population are becoming irreversibly degraded. We need to take the lead from the Future Business Leaders of America (, which was founded in Columbia University in New York City. FBLA, for instance, is the largest student business organization in the world with 230,000 members. These organizations do positive, creative initiatives for people all around to secure them sufficient and sustainable food in entrepreneurial ways.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being – Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (, which is another youth program, has supported implementation plans geared to reduce adolescent pregnancy of the Caribbean, Ghana, Guyana, Myanmar, and elsewhere, working with UNICEF ( UNFPA was created in 1969, as the UN General Assembly declared “parents have the exclusive right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.” The UNICEF youth program was created over 70 years ago and now works in 190 countries and territories improving the lives of children and their families defending their children’s right.

Goal 4: Quality Education – Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All

The goal of quality education is a goal that all youth programs embrace – quality education – Enactus, the Future Business Leaders of America, Junior Achievement (, and United Nations Youth Unit, recognizing the indisputable positive correlation between education and development. Also, we see that the least developed countries in the world also hold the lowest educational achievement. It is as simple as that.

Goal 5: Gender Equality – Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls

The diversity statement of Junior Achievement says, “Junior Achievement is the recognized leader in ‘empowering young people to own their economic success’ through volunteer-led, experiential learning. We are dedicated to providing a positive, enriching learning experience free of bias. Junior Achievement welcomes K-12 students, volunteers and potential staff regardless of race, religion, age, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or any other legally protected characteristic.”

Junior Achievement boasts that it reached 4,845,904 students; 212,101 classes; 243,756 volunteers; and 21,955 schools in 2016–2017 with a diversity statement (above) that either sex would be proud to have. Thus, we should utilize these youth groups, who all have similar statements about equality.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All

The Associate Member Forum (AMF) of the Metropolitan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) (, which for 1 year (1989–1990) I served as the president, has clean water usage and sanitation provision. Such youth programs should be tapped for a much-needed volunteer work in this area.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy – Ensure Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable, and Modern Energy for All

Kilowatts for Education ( has a mission statement as follows: “Offer a tremendous opportunity for educational institutions through the use of renewable energy projects to offset their power use with a sustainable and responsible resource while educating their students on the benefits of renewable energy.” This student (youth) group would be wonderful to explore a program, which could even be sponsored by a grant-giving foundation.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – Promote Sustained, Inclusive, and Sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment, and Decent Work for All

Karen Higgins, PhD, wrote, “Economic growth and sustainability – Are they mutually exclusive: Striking a balance between unbounded economic growth and sustainability requires a new mindset” (2013), which talked about present-day society and our dependence on water, oxygen, and other natural elements and the connection between the economy and earth. Obviously, the aspect of sustainability is important, and the long-term reversal of our non-sustainable ways, which requires the masses to retreat from the path we are on. When we talk of the masses, a mind-set, and aggressive pursuit with energy, it appears that youth are a natural.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

The American Management Association’s Operation Enterprise (, which is its youth program of which I served as executive director for a year and a half, has wonderful programs for youth interested in industry and entrepreneurship and through the website of the Small Business Administration ( can accomplish much toward our failing infrastructure. President Trump highlighted failing infrastructure as one of America’s priorities, which has been highlighted similarly by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

In the international community, the most vulnerable nations are the least developed with the least education, so their youth have the greatest time here to work toward a reversal. The reversal is not going to come from people in their 80s. While income inequality between countries may have been reduced, the income inequality within countries has risen. So has the resulting conflict between the haves and the have-nots. The three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental – need to be addressed by young leaders armed with the youth therein.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

The Future Business Leaders of America and Junior Achievement, with their network of over 470,000 volunteers serving more than 10 million students in over 100 countries, are two of the many national and international youth groups working toward sustainable cities and communities. As our country evolved, development grew from the coastal towns (Boston, New York, Charleston) to the internal cities or hubs, as rail and now air travel have expanded inward. At their best, cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically. Such youth programs prepare cities for the challenges they face, whether it be improving resource use, reducing pollution, and curtailing poverty.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

The Enactus organization ( engages in responsible consumption and production, which encourages sustainable resource usage, energy efficiency, minimalist infrastructure, and a better quality of life for all. Once again, Enactus is a worldwide youth organization. Enactus helps to achieve overall development plans; aims to reduce future economic, environmental, and social costs; and strives to instill economic competitiveness.

Sustainable consumption and production aim to “do more (and better) with less,” increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation, and pollution within product life cycle while increasing quality of life.

Goal 13: Climate Action

The Climate Reality Project, whose well-known supporter, Al Gore, has a youth movement:

From their website: “Youth movements are emerging all over the world to combat climate change,” including Australia, Nepal, Africa, and Canada, among others. Why? Because they are knowledgeable (from social media), with time on their side, and they are aggressive (youth!). Climate change is affecting every country on every continent, since we collectively have one climate. Climate change disrupts national economies, affects individuals’ and groups’ lives, and costs people, communities, and countries. Look around the world at what has happened recently.

Climate change knows no national borders.

Goal 14: Life Below Water

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce has its youth focus:, focusing on lifelong learning to enhance their own knowledge, skills, and competencies from a personal, civic, social, and/or career-related perspective. Rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout our history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.

A very small amount of our water is fresh, clean water – maybe 2.5% – and most of that is inaccessible (e.g., polar ice caps), so only about 0.3% of the water on Earth is accessible. Careful management of this essential global resource is a key to a sustainable future.

Goal 15: Life on Land

The National Forest Foundation has a youth focus: to encourage youth to become involved in forest sustainability. Forests cover 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and, in addition to providing food security and shelter, forests are key to combating climate change, of which we just spoke, and protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population.

Goal 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institution

The promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development activities, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels could involve the American Bar Association (, New York City Bar Association (, for instance, and their youth groups.

Goal 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goal

A successful sustainable development program will require partnerships between for-profit, not-for-profit, government, NGO, public, and private sectors. These inclusive partnerships will be built upon principles and values shared by all and shared goals that place people and the planet at the center. Entities are needed at the global, regional, national, and local level.

We need to mobilize, redirect, and unlock the transformative powers of energized people, particularly youth! Hence, we have a need for Business Youth for Sustainable Development (BY4SD).

2030 Agenda: A Plan of Action for People, Planet, and Prosperity (

The SDGs just reviewed and their targets for the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet become the 5Ps (people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership):

People – end poverty and hunger.

Planet – protect the planet from degradation through sustainability.

Prosperity – ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives.

Peace – foster peaceful, just, and inclusive societies (free from fear and violence).

Partnership – mobilize the means required to implement the agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders, and all people.

It is this last “P” (partnership), which comes directly from the United Nations Sustainable Development website, that calls for the establishment of the Business Youth for Sustainable Development (BY4SD) now.

Business Youth for Sustainable Development (BY4SD)

So Business Youth for Sustainable Development (BY4SD), combining the best efforts of the existing youth organizations, could be the answer. Let me, once again, take a look at some of these organizations to see more of their focus (agenda) and priorities.

Future Business Leaders of America ( Established 1940

The Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda is a not-for-profit, education association of students preparing for careers in business and business-related fields. The association has four divisions:

1. FBLA for high school students

2. FBLA middle level for junior high, middle, and intermediate school students

3. PBL for postsecondary students

4. Professional Alumni Division for business people, educators, and parents, who support the goals of the association

The FBLA-PBL mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs. Business teachers/advisers and advisory councils (including school officials, business people, and community representatives) guide local chapters. State advisers and committee members coordinate chapter activities for the national organization.

FBLA-PBL sponsors conferences and seminars for members and advisers, which are designed to enhance experience initially developed on the local and state level. Among these programs are the Institute for Leaders and the National Fall Leadership Conference.

Junior Achievement ( Established 1919

In Junior Achievement, the growing number of volunteers, educators, parents, and contributors reaches out to 7 million students each year, in grades K–12. Junior Achievement has passionate people behind a movement that seeks to educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, business, and economics to improve the quality of their lives.

Altogether, Junior Achievement reaches millions of students worldwide with their “age-appropriate” curricula. Junior Achievement programs begin at the elementary school level, teaching children how they can impact the world around them as individuals, workers, and consumers. Junior Achievement programs continue through the middle and high school grades, preparing students for future economic and workforce issues they’ll face.

Operation Enterprise (American Management Association) ( Established 1960s

Today, companies are constantly looking to do more with less in order to keep up with – and outpace – change and competition. Responsibilities may increase at a moment’s notice and require different or greater skills. That is why training and education have never been more critical for advancing careers and achieving organizational success. Ongoing learning enables managers to continuously enhance their professional and personal development and increase their value to their organizations.

AMA/Operation Enterprise provides managers and their organizations worldwide with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to improve business performance, adapt to a changing workplace, and prosper in a complex and competitive business world. AMA/Operation Enterprise serves as a forum for the exchange of the latest information, ideas, and insights on management practices and business trends. AMA/Operation Enterprise disseminates content and information to a worldwide audience through multiple distribution channels and its strategic partners.

Language, culture, and other barriers may separate global business communities. But every organization, regardless of its location, needs one thing: access to the best in management training. That is why the AMA/Operation Enterprise network now extends worldwide – reaching thousands of business professionals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe and in Japan, China, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

AMA/Operation Enterprise develops youth along three (3) paths: career guidance, career skills, and career development, with high school programs, college programs, and customized programs. Operation Enterprise has been a part of the American Management Association since 1963.

United Nations Youth Unit ( or Established 1950s

The Youth Unit is a not-for-profit organization (and an NGO – nongovernmental organization), and it is the focal point within the United Nations system on matters relating to youth. It has been set up to:
  • Enhance awareness of the global situation of youth and increase recognition of the rights and aspirations of youth.

  • Promote national youth policies in cooperation with both governmental and nongovernmental youth organizations.

  • Strengthen the participation of youth in decision-making processes at all levels.

  • Encourage mutual respect and understanding and peace among youth.

The focal point within the United Nations system on matters relating to youth issues is the Program on Youth in the “Division for Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department of Economic and social Affairs.” It has been set up to enhance awareness of the global situation of youth and increase recognition of the rights and aspirations of youth; promote national youth policies, national youth coordinating mechanisms, and national youth programs of action as integral parts of social and economic development, in cooperation with both governmental and nongovernmental organizations; and strengthen the participation of youth in decision-making processes at all levels in order to increase their impact on national development and international cooperation.

The United Nations has long recognized that the imagination, ideals, and energies of young women and men are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live. And, the member states of the United Nations acknowledged this in 1965 when they endorsed the “Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples.” Further than youth organizations, we should look at professional, social, and even sports organizations.

Professional, Social, and Sports Organizations

Many appropriate professional organizations exist which have a youth component – the American Society of Civil Engineers (established 1852), American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York Academy of Sciences, Institute of Transportation Engineers, and Delta Sigma Pi (established 1907). Indeed, my first profession was that of a civil engineer.

Even social “club” or sports organizations, like the United States Chess Federation, United States Backgammon Federation, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, United States Tennis Association, and a slew of organized baseball, football, hockey, and soccer, focus on youth.

But, it is the professional (technical) societies that focus on the issue of sustainable development, so it is those societies and the youth organizations discussed earlier that must be aligned with, for example, the Academy of Management, and others, to get the right emphasis and management focus on the issue of sustainable development. As I am a New Yorker, I will highlight some activities from the metropolitan tri-state area.

Sample Environmental Issues, Relative to the Metropolitan New York Region, as Examples of Sustainability Needs

  • Climate change – global warming, greenhouse gases, and ocean acidification

  • Nuclear issues – New York (Indian Point Energy Center, Fitzpatrick, Ginna, Nine Mile Point), New Jersey (Hope Creek, Oyster Creek, Salem), and Connecticut (Millstone Nuclear Power Station)

  • Water pollution (Hudson River, East River, Atlantic Ocean) – ocean polluting (dumping), acid rain, oil spills, thermal pollution, eutrophication/algal bloom, and mercury in fish

  • Energy – fossil fuel depletion, conservation, renewable energy, and efficient energy use

  • Overpopulation

  • Air pollution – smog, indoor air quality, and particulate matter

  • Land use – urban sprawl and habitat destruction

  • Solid waste – E-waste, litter, medical waste, landfills, leachate, recycling, and incineration

Recommendations for a Unified Approach to Youth Organizations

  1. 1.

    Set objectives for aligning social and sports youth groups and management with professional (technical) organizations (really, their individual members).

  2. 2.

    Develop strategic alliances between these youth groups, management, and professional (technical) organizations.

  3. 3.

    Bring sustainable development attention to these youth and management groups – the professional (technical) organizations are already aware of sustainable development. For example, write articles, participate on the web, participate in conferences, hand out information, etc. – utilizing all available information technology.

  4. 4.

    Let these youth groups and management know that they are the missing pegs!

  5. 5.

    Convene meetings, regularly, between these youth groups and the others who are aware or who should be aware (i.e., everyone) of sustainable development.

  6. 6.

    Measure results to ascertain progress to sustainable development objectives.

  7. 7.

    First, we have to crawl, before we walk, before we run! Youth will be instrumental to the cause.


The United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education ( can certainly help in this regard.

Evidence shows that the industrialized world has the economic power to address the world’s environmental problems, but the urgent desire and persistence will be brought to bear by the young people, who have a relatively “longer” standing in the world today (and tomorrow). These are young people from both the industrialized and the nonindustrialized world. Haves and have-nots together must uniformly embrace this agenda, which must be embraced into by the young. The young have the energy, long-standing (apolitical) commitment – if they are allowed to reason through by themselves – for it is for their children, their grandchildren, and their great grandchildren and so on. Albeit, we should know they will be influenced.

Some Closing Thoughts

Sustainable development is built on three pillars: economic growth, ecological balance, and social progress (Stigson 2000). All three pillars relate to globalization as well. Corporations face increasingly intense scrutiny to strive for sustainability, and to contend with this, they will have to enforce a set of globalized corporate values throughout their operations. Corporations must be able to demonstrate that sustainable development is good business, is good for globalization, and is good for the world’s economy.

Globalization cuts across all of these three, and yet ecological growth and ecological balance receive the lion’s share of attention. But, interest in social progress is again growing, helped with the ubiquitousness of social media. Corporations must show that with “globalized corporate values,” the goals set forth in the sustainable development doctrine will be achieved. Balancing equity among the needs of people, optimal resource utilization, the economy, and the environment is at the heart of sustainable development. This “four-legged stool” needs to be managed well to achieve the objectives of each facet, albeit with compromise and consensus (De Feis 2006). By only considering the “needs of people,” for instance, we may sacrifice tomorrow for today. By only considering “the environment,” we may unnecessarily hinder today’s pleasure while have unneeded excesses tomorrow. When thinking of tomorrow, we need to facilitate the understanding of and “light a fire” under those who will undertake action tomorrow: today’s globalized youth.

Dissection of the Four-Legged Stool

Needs of People

The needs of people are what drive innovation today – without this we would still be doing math on a slide rule. But people are all different – some individualists, some democratic, some socialist, some collectivist, some free market driven, some government controlled economics, etc. The needs of 7.5 billion people in nearly 200 countries with all different levels of development and mind-sets cannot be overlooked.

Optimal Resource Utilization

When should I consume – now or later? Today or tomorrow? This year or next? Well, that depends – what will it be worth next year if I wait? Understand that the opportunity cost is important to our decision. What would you rather have a $10 cash today or $20 cash next year? If you consider “slack,” how much slack have I got, which will indicate if I could wait or must I consume now.


How is the economy? Well, that is a relative question – compared to what? Compared to twenty years ago (1998), then the economy today is better. Compared to ten years ago (2008), today it is much, much better! Governments, businesses, and people must understand that there will either be payment now in the form of taxes on people (increase in tax revenues) and tax benefits to corporations (decrease in tax revenues) or payment later in the form of cleanups (De Feis 1994, 1991). There will be a payment.


An Inconvenient Truth (by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore) states that we cannot keep deferring our attention on the environment. We have problems, which must be addressed now. Just like the decision-makers, who were largely politicians, who decided not to strengthen or heighten the levies around New Orleans, Louisiana, as many knew could not withstand a category 4 or 5 hurricane, and instead decided the funds were needed for schools and housing and other “squeaky” wheels. And, so they argued, “If the levies had not faced a category 4 or 5 hurricane in the past 100 years, they could surely hold up until they are out of office ….” But we now know what happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina came knocking.

Youth programs abound – United Nations Youth Unit, the Future Business Leaders of America, Junior Achievement, Operation Enterprise (youth program of the American Management Association), and others – and it is in these organizations that the sustainable development movement must take hold. Many of these groups embrace a management and business mind-set, with overtones of community service. The whole aspect of “service-learning” for youth is a good example of what could be. As such, they should be tapped to participate in the much-needed youth force of the sustainable development process.


Sustainable development is a quixotic quest! To develop in a sustainable way may be foolish for some – why can’t I enjoy myself to the fullest extent available? Arguments will astound you, and indeed there are several legs to the “sustainable development” story, with each playing a different and important role. Therefore, communication, sharing information, through social media and the like is essential. Remember the Arab Spring? Credit was given to Facebook, among other entities! For first, the concepts of “I can’t take it anymore!” spread to Tunisia, then to Egypt, then to Libya, and then to Iraq, and it continues it to spread.

Implementation of the vast challenges presents us with a great opportunity to manage of process – I argue that a key is to involve youth early. The role of government is certainly important to coordinate and facilitate the organization of such an immense network of youth. Note, though, that “governments must realize that they can either pay now (i.e., with tax benefits to companies, and therefore lost or decreased current tax revenues) or pay later, in the form of cleanups. Why not pay now?” (De Feis 1994).



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Healthcare Management, and Business AdministrationIona College, School of BusinessNew RochelleUSA

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