Young people of marrying age today may not all agree on their politics, but the majority of millennials do share a common view on the environment, according to a recent study by MIT. This is even more pronounced in the Gen Z community. Products and brands that wish to appeal to and grow with the largest generation in American history, 70 million, will need to respect the environment and nascent technology if they wish to succeed.
This connection between technology and the environment makes the triumph of Lab-grown diamonds over mined diamonds inevitable. There is simply nothing good for the environment about open pit mines so large they are visible from space and huge vacuuming ships that suck the seabed floor of everything in search of these precious gems. Rather than put lipstick on this pig, even the diamond conglomerate DeBeers has entered the Lab-grown arena. Of course, their motives are to destroy the value of Lab-grown so they can continue to sell the mined diamonds that lay at the core of their fortune. But they are on the wrong side of history.
A similar example in our history is the hunting of whales to near extinction in the 19th century. Whale blubber, melted down to whale oil, was the only means to light our lamps when the sun went down. We hunted these mammals to near extinction in our quest for light. Then, in 1879, Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb. This along with discovery of linseed oil and petroleum reserves, displaced and eventually replaced whale oil. Soon after the slaughter ceased—but not without ample protest from the whaling industry that was being eradicated. Whale oil had contributed 20% of America’s overall GDP. New Bedford, Massachusetts, the center of the whaling industry, was the wealthiest city per capita in the entire United States.
Change is hard for old technology companies like miners and whalers. They will fight with their marketing dollars and mature balance sheets to continue to convince consumers that their legacy product bears some inherent superiority to the cleaner, less expensive and certainly less environmentally destructive new technologies. But in a world newly sensitized to the fragility of our environment, their efforts instantly betray them on the wrong side of history. Simply put, there is no ‘planet B’, and millennials and Gen Z couples know that.