The world is broken — I believe brands can play a role in fixing it

Jim Moriarty
5 min readMay 6, 2021

I’ve always been early. It’s a common thread throughout my life. When most people are focused on today, I’m distracted by the future. About 10 years ago, when I was at the helm of Surfrider Foundation, I started to see something new taking form — the idea of brand citizenship. Since then I’ve been exploring the idea further and have seen it gain momentum. More and more, brands represent a meaningful swing-vote on the future of the planet.

The idea that brands can save the world is laughable at first glance

I share this cynicism, call BS on most marketing, and do not believe that rampant consumerism is the answer to a sustainable future. Yet, when one embraces a wider lens we start to see things differently. It is only logical that brands have an outsized share in terms of potential for a better world.

Our world — on fire

Let’s quickly establish the fact that our world has massive challenges — from the rise of nationalism to cyber warfare, from systemic racism to pandemics, from forced immigration to natural disasters, from AI to climate change… not to mention super volcanos. Our cup of risk runneth over.

The question becomes, where is Wonder Woman? Or Superman? Who or what will save the day?

A note about videos shared: commercials do not change the world. Full stop. Without long-term, actionable programs to advance a brand's beliefs, commercials are just sugar hits. The real win is the combination of unignorable creativity and a big idea.

Trust is shifting in the direction of brands

An accounting of the largest, legacy institutions yields a poor report card. Trust is down across the board — with a hint of hope in business. Edelman’s 2021 study shows that “business is not only the most trusted

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