The Body Shop campaigns for young people to have more of a say in politics

The Body Shop has launched a new global campaign to lower voting age requirements and ensure that young people are properly represented in local and national politics, arguing that major global challenges will not be solved by “the same people making the same choices”.

The Body Shop campaigns for young people to have more of a say in politics

Pictured (L-R): Samson Itodo, Gina Martin, Jayathma Wickramanayake and Chris Davis.

The campaign is called ‘Be Seen, Be Heard’ and is being supported by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. It will run for at least three years.

Through the campaign, The Body Shop will advocate for the lowering of voting age requirements and the simplification of voter registration processes. It surveyed more than 27,000 people of all age groups in designing the campaign, finding that 80% believe the ideal first voting age is between 16 and 18.

The Body Shop will also call on councils and governments to set formal targets and plans to increase their youth representation. This call to action has been designed in recognition of the fact that people under 30 account for less than 3% of all parliamentary seats globally, despite the fact that more than 45% of the global population falls within this age range. More than one-third (37%) of all national and local parliaments do not have a single seat filled by someone aged 30 or under.

The Body Shop argues that increasing youth representation in local and national politics would give the world a better chance of properly addressing the most pressing environmental and social challenges at this critical time. Of the 14,000+ people under 30 who were surveyed by the Body Shop, three-quarters said they believe that incumbent political and business leaders have had a negative impact on people and the climate and environment.

“The world’s problems cannot be solved by the same people making the same choices,” said The Body Shop’s chief executive David Boynton. “Our research indicates the majority of young people are positive about the future, and we need to hear their views and ideas inside the halls of power.  We will use our global reach to galvanise awareness and support, as we have in the past.”

Boynton added: “Since Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1976, we have campaigned on issues of social and environmental justice because we believe that global businesses have a responsibility towards the communities in which they operate. Throughout our campaigning history, The Body Shop has created direct change through new legislative action or policy changes in over 24 countries since 1990.”

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanaya, said: “As young people have made abundantly clear through their activism on the streets, in civil society and on social media, they care deeply about the transformational change needed to create more equal, just and sustainable societies. Participation is a right, and a lack of youth representation where decisions are made contributes to a growing mistrust towards political institutions and a sense of alienation from elected leaders, caused by policies that do not reflect the priorities of youth, mirror their concerns or speak their language. This campaign is an opportunity to change that.”

‘Be Seen, Be Heard’ campaign materials will be added to some 2,600 Body Shop and UN locations in more than 75 countries in the coming weeks. There is also a dedicated website. In the coming weeks, petitions will be launched and the two organisations will announce partnerships with local youth-led and youth-focused NGOs to help drive action on the ground.

The launch of the campaign comes as The Body Shop continues to work towards launching its own official youth council, which will hold the business to account over its long-term strategy and its decision-making processes. The retailer piloted the youth council earlier this year and is planning a full launch shortly. Last year, The Body Shop hosted a panel with B Lab at COP26 in which youth activists were invited to scrutinise the business.

Several other businesses already have – or are planning to launch – a shadow board of younger employees. Firms in this cohort include Stora Enso, Gucci, Prada and Lloyds of London. The trend appears to be taking off as businesses firm up their approach to the digital transition and strive to improve their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) outcomes.

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