How can we let our children have influence and power over the stock market that creates their future

Young people are increasingly able to express their opinions as consumers. But there is one place where their voices are not heard: the stock market. What if there was a way?

Here’s a depressing statistic I found recently, buried deep in a Wunderman Thompson report on children’s attitudes toward retail.

67% of 6-9 year olds say that saving the planet will be the central mission of their career in the future. (Wunderman Thompson Commerce)

These are kids the same age as my seven year old son Nuri and they already realize that their job will be to clean up after us? Imagine the incredible psychological burden of feeling like they have to save this planet from complete systemic collapse.

For too long, our children have been excluded from a financial system that slowly and relentlessly shapes the world they will inherit. Despite the best efforts of decades of lobbying, Wall Street and the big financial institutions, motivated by their myopic focus on short-term profits, have helped create a world of climate meltdown and massive income inequality.

If the Gamestop / AMC episode has taught us anything, it’s that a group of determined and organized retail investors can take on the establishment – and win.

It has been encouraging to see the rise of activist investor platforms like Engine No 1’s Transform 500 ETF (which gives retail investors a stake in the top 500 US stocks to influence change) and the Tulipshare platform. (which allows individual investors to register for actions targeting Apple, Amazon and Coca-Cola).

But I believe that we must go further: I propose the creation of a Children’s Activist Fund which, for the first time, gives younger generations a voice: a chance to represent themselves and their needs in a volatile and uncertain world.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea how this is legally possible: Parents may need to be the guardians of their children’s actions, just as it does with their savings accounts. or their mutual funds.

I also don’t know how to build the technology that allows millions of children to express their views and shape them into consensual initiatives that can then influence the policy decisions of big business.

I will leave these things to people who are much more knowledgeable legally, financially, and technologically.

But what I do know is the optics: Imagine a kid walking up to the microphone at an annual meeting of shareholders, representing the Children’s Activist Fund, tabling a motion that the company needs to take quick action and evasive to become carbon neutral within a five-year-window? Or that he must commit to racial and gender equality from the board level within a similar timeframe?

Now imagine that image on the evening news – and imagine yourself being the banks, pension and endowment funds, and private equity firms having to vote publicly against this child? And being the executives who have to go home to have dinner with their own children, who have asked them why they voted against their future?

It may sound like a naive pipe dream. But if we’re going to build a world where seven-year-olds don’t have to worry about having to save the world from collapse, it might not be such a radical idea after all.

And if that creates a better business environment for them to eventually become employees, then that’s an added bonus.

It’s a future I’m ready to invest in. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

About Joetta Becker

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