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A world of a thousand movements

Interlocking. Mutually reinforcing. Some global. Most local. All vital.

But the latest scientific discoveries from a Columbia University-led research team, peer reviewed only last month and confirmed to be the world’s new brutal climate math, has rendered these two levels woefully insufficient and has opened up an entirely new space for brand leadership, reputation enhancement and robust sales.

To be sure, movements aren’t new. Lots of brands have launched and sustained notable ones over the years. NGOs, as well, many with highly active corporate sponsors. Cause marketing is replete with inspiring success stories.

…unless companies of all types and sizes fill the void with a tsunami of planet-saving movements. And that, my friends, is our new agenda.


The prevailing assumption, to which we’ve all subscribed, says that catastrophic climate change and ecosystem depletion won’t happen until we surpass a 2℃ aggregate temperature rise above the historical average — 1.5℃ was declared safer in the Paris agreement.

A new era of Climate Disruption is upon us, where two degrees is no longer the limit.

Is it 1.5℃? And how much time do we have? No one knows for certain. What we do know is that the carbon already in the atmosphere will keep temperatures rising dangerously for the next 10–30 years even if we were to halt all new emissions cold turkey right this moment, which of course we won’t. Emissions are projected to rise, though less voluminously, for several more decades, pushing the time lag and raising temperatures further.


As marketers and communicators — at least those of us in this to actually make a difference! — this must be our starting point when sitting with our bosses and clients and recommending what their new approach ought to be.

The momentum for purpose-driven communications has been building for some time and is now at an inflection point.

Books such as this one and articles like this one have become commonplace on business reading lists. Two Edelman veterans recently left the world’s top PR firm to launch movement-focused practices of their own: Carol Cone and Robert Phillips. NGO Sustainable Brands is dedicating its big annual event this year to purpose.

Now must come the next wave. The inflection must be hyperdriven by movements with greater ambition. Movements with hunger, with an edge. But above all else, movements that are connected, not run in isolation — a wondrous global chain of social change. Truly a world of a thousand movements.

How can it work at your company? Let’s break it down.

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That’s why movements are not to be confused with campaigns. The latter are temporary. They expire at a certain date and are replaced with new ones. A movement is designed to be constant, to endure, to mature and build over time. Movements don’t come with expiration dates. They are by definition open-ended, since the “end” depends on when the objective is achieved.


To connect the movements, we will need certain players to step up. If you’re a company, in addition to your own movement, you can lead by persuading companies in other industries to do the same. If you’re an agency, you can make it your business to pitch movements to various companies across industries. Likewise if you’re a media company. The business model is clear and compelling.

Written by

Pioneering Deep Climate Adaptability as a business value driver and Adaptation ESG for faster resilience mainstream. Bec societies adapt only if companies do.

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