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The Next Economy
10 Reasons to Feel Good About the World as We Head into 2024

As we reflect on the impact themes that defined 2023 and distill our predictions for the new year, we offer 10 positive trends to feel good about the world heading into 2024.

It’s been a very tough year — a year defined by financial, social, and planetary uncertainty; and a year defined by war — real wars in Ukraine and Gaza; and a proverbial war on climate action, ESG, and the fight between left and right. It only takes a quick glance at the headlines dominating the news cycles to feel pessimistic about the state of the world and concern for the future.

But what if we told you this is only a part of the story? What if we told you there are endless stories of world altering progress that haven’t received the airtime they deserve on our news and social feeds?

The media myth that “good news doesn’t sell” may be well entrenched, but we know from the emergence of positive news platforms such as Goodable, Good News Network, Future Crunch, and Reasons to be Cheerful that this old adage isn’t true. People crave stories that give them hope. And there is evidence to show it makes them tangibly happier.

So, as we reflect on the impact themes that defined 2023 and distill our predictions for the new year, we offer 10 positive trends to feel good about the world heading into 2024.

The economy is starting to rebound

After a global pandemic and spike in energy prices, global supply chains have finally stabilized and have regained the ability to meet the demands of industry. Although things are not yet feeling comfy for consumers, inflation is cooling and — thanks to an extremely rare signal — the stock market is predicted to see record highs in 2024.

Climate efforts are increasing while greenwashing is decreasing

Ecuador voted to stop oil. Portugal ran on renewable energy for almost a week. Paris is banning cars. Rewilding took the UK by storm. And COP28 finally (reluctantly) announced a transition away from fossil fuels. All the while, greenwashing is getting its day in court. Brands including Nike, Keurig, Volkswagen and a handful of major airlines have all come under fire for fraudulent or misleading sustainability claims. This is great news for social-impact professionals who have grown tired of seeing industry laggards slapping a green leaf on a product and calling it sustainable.

Businesses made headway on closing the gender gap

In the US, the pay gap between full-time working women and their male counterparts is the smallest on record (but there’s still work to be done for parity to be achieved). In the UK, businesses surpassed targets over two years ahead of schedule to reach 40 percent female representation in boardrooms.

Many brands showed real allyship for equity-deserving groups

The world watched intensely as Bud Light and Target collapsed under the pressure of a small but loud group of the political and religious right during Pride month. But many businesses did the opposite: Brands including Walmart, The Body Shop, The North Face & The Bay rose to the occasion — standing behind the community and embracing the idea that true allyship is necessary, even if uncomfortable.

We entered the golden age of medicine

We have entered an astonishing age of health innovation; and the proof is in the pudding. This year alone, we have witnessed quantum leaps in the treatments of Alzheimer's and a prolific number of cancers. All of this while Ozempic and Wegovy made massive inroads on the obesity epidemic (among the largest risk factors for preventable deaths in the US), and countries around the world eliminated a record number of diseases. Oh, and we’re winning the war on AIDS; polio is on the brink of eradication; and a “miracle” cystic fibrosis treatment is now available.

Feeling a bit more optimistic? Here are five more reasons to feel positive about 2024.

Co-opetition goes mainstream

While we have heart for corporate impact coalitions (businesses coming together to take a stance on important social and environmental issues), we predict we’ve seen them hit their heyday. Acting as a coalition signatory has become table stakes in this industry — and true purpose-driven businesses are taking a further step with co-opetition (business competitors coming together to tackle issues affecting people and the planet). Two great recent examples: Dove x Nike announced a new partnership to help keep girls in sports; while The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Adidas Terrex, Vivobarefoot, Salomon, Osprey and Wiggle collectively launched OUTO (Opening Up The Outdoors) to advance diversity and inclusion in outdoor sports spaces.

Women break down barriers and taboos

Female empowerment took center stage in 2023, creating space for women’s health issues to gain greater prominence. From periods to perimenopause, we have begun to see a shift in the conversation and products that aid women across their life course — brands such as Knix and Stripes (Naomi Watts’ menopausal beauty brand). We predict this trend continues into 2024, and the effect is a continued erosion of the taboos that surround the female experience to create greater visibility and real talk on female health equity issues.

AI becomes a force for good

The media fear-mongering around artificial intelligence this year was palpable — governments clamored to regulate advancements and people everywhere developed a wariness for the technology. And while no one has a crystal ball to predict its impact, we are seeing an increasing number of good news stories that demonstrate its potential to create more positive change in 2024. Why? Because it allows us to ask big questions of big data, uncover new insights and enact new solutions. According to Johnson & Johnson, it has already facilitated earlier detection of diseases and accelerated drug discovery, while also supporting the development of revolutionary platforms for people working for progress (think Microsoft’s AI for Good and OpenESG).

ESG grows up

As an outcome of the anti-ESG rhetoric and crackdown on greenwashing — alongside increasing pressure of global reporting regulations and mandates — we predict we will see a maturation of ESG and a move away from the term (but not the framework). Sustainability in 2024 will be more buttoned down and marked by a rightsizing of impact goals and objectives. To differentiate in an increasing sea of sameness, we’ll see businesses focus on creating more specific “stand-tall moments” that drive both brand storytelling and real change. As brands find their sustainability voice, we’ll see “greenhushing” morph into green confidence.

Businesses get serious about climate commitments

In 2023, the effects of climate change and its advancement became unignorable. Both Climate Week and COP28 issued calls to action to businesses to put their money where their mouth is on environmental commitments. From our vantage point, it has been a lightbulb year where leaders across industry are waking up to the need to lead. Our projection is we’ll see an acceleration of meaningful commitments that balance big-hairy-audacious goals with more immediate, measurable wins. We’re not the only ones seeing this either: Global alternative asset and private equity investor KKR identified decarbonization as a key “mega-theme” driving investment opportunities in its 2024 Global Macro Outlook report.

Feeling better? We hope so. Because 2024 is going to be one hell of a good year (if you choose to look a little closer).

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