Phillip Haid and Caleigh Farrell
Published 1 month ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: Over a half-dozen outdoor brands collectively launched OUTO (Opening Up The Outdoors) to advance diversity and inclusion in outdoor sports spaces. | United We Climb
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
and Gaza; and a proverbial war on climate
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
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.
After a global pandemic and spike in energy prices, global supply
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
— the stock market is predicted to see record highs in 2024.
Ecuador voted to stop
Portugal ran on renewable
for almost a week. Paris is banning
took the UK by storm. And
finally (reluctantly) announced a transition away from fossil fuels. All the
is getting its day in court. Brands including Nike, Keurig,
Volkswagen and a handful of major
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
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
The world watched intensely as Bud
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
The North Face & The
Bay rose to the
occasion — standing behind the community and embracing the idea that true
allyship is necessary, even if
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
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
announced a new
to help keep girls in sports; while The North Face, Patagonia,
Arc’teryx, Adidas Terrex, Vivobarefoot, Salomon, Osprey and
Wiggle collectively launched
(Opening Up The Outdoors) to advance diversity and inclusion in outdoor
Female empowerment took center stage in 2023, creating space for women’s health
issues to gain greater prominence. From
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.
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 &
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
As an outcome of the anti-ESG
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.
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
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).
Published Jan 5, 2024 2pm EST / 11am PST / 7pm GMT / 8pm CET
Phillip Haid is Founder & CEO at Public Inc. — North America’s leading social-impact agency helping companies and organizations profit with purpose.
Caleigh Farrell is Head of Research at Public Inc. — North America’s leading social-impact agency helping companies and organizations profit with purpose.