Year in Review: Emerging Trends & Surprising Stats | Net Impact

Year in Review: Emerging Trends & Surprising Stats

It's amazing what happens when you gather some of the world's leaders in impact issues and ask them a few questions. This year, we asked our conference speakers which emerging trends and surprising stats stand out to them in each of their fields. They had a lot to say, and we're feeling more informed (and more ready to change the world) than ever...

Paula Thornton Greear 
Marketing Expert

I believe that we will see a rise in the number of young men and women of color, at a grassroots level, advocating for change. From social justice to environmental sustainability and economic opportunity, young Black and Latino men and women will identify platforms -- such as Black Youth Project 100 -- to bring about change not only within their respective racial and ethnic demographics, but also within society as a whole.

R. Paul Herman
CEO and Founder of HIP Investor Ratings

95% of all future investment by the 10 largest energy companies (Exxon, Chevron, Shell, Total, etc.) is still dedicated to fossil-fuel exploration and development; less than 5% of future investing is allocated to renewable or clean energy. That's something every investor and corporate professional should know.‚Äč

Jennifer Gerholdt 
Director, Environmental Initiatives at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center

According to a recent report funded by the Water Research Foundation and the Water Environment Research Foundation, the water sector (water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities) will contribute $524 billion to the economy over 10 years, supporting 289,000 permanent jobs. One-third of the current water sector workforce is eligible for retirement, and the industry is actively onboarding and training the new workforce to fill these jobs, which include engineering, business management, and customer service. This is a great opportunity for students and professionals looking to make a career switch to have a positive impact in a field that is vital to maintaining public health and improving our environment.

Meriwether Hardie
Senior Executive Associate, Rainforest Alliance

Some of the reasons why I am working in the field I am in (conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods): Agricultural expansion is responsible for 70% of global deforestation and is the single greatest threat to tropical forests. 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods worldwide, and approximately 40% of the global economy is based on biological products and processes – particularly farming and logging. Also, 14% of all greenhouse gas emission are related to farming - more than the world’s planes, trains, and automobiles combined.

Snehal Desai 
Global Business Director, Dow Water & Process Solutions

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “the total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is less than 200,000 km3 of water, which is less than 1% of all freshwater resources, and only 0.01% of all the water on Earth.” From hydration, manufacturing and irrigation to agriculture, the food we eat, and the products we buy, water plays a critical role in our lives. As global water scarcity and water stress continue to persist, solutions are needed to reduce pressure on freshwater assets. Now, more than ever, a focus on innovation and R&D is necessary to combat water challenges. Water treatment technologies can provide an effective way to purify wastewater and reuse it for industrial, agricultural and residential use. 

Matt Mahan
CEO, Brigade Media

No matter what data you turn to, the current state of American democracy isn’t pretty. I’ll take some liberties and offer a few stats as evidence. First, voter turnout has declined as the cost of elections has soared. Only about 40% of the eligible population votes during midterm elections, and that's just for the office at the top of the ballot. Moving down-ballot, even for an important office like mayor, average turnout drops to around 25%. Meanwhile, politicians spend roughly half of their time during the legislative cycle engaged in fundraising in order to be viable in the next cycle.

Second, American’s trust in elected officials and government institutions is historically low. Only 7% percent of Americans say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress and two-thirds of Americans say the government is run for a “few big interests” vs. one-third who say it is run “for the people.” These ratios were inverted in the 1960s. Third, our awareness of civic issues is lacking. There are more than 500,000 elected officials in this country, and the average American is represented by 50. But how many can each of us name? Not many.

These are disturbing statistics, but they are only symptoms of a more fundamental breakdown in our civic life: When people don’t show up to vote, have lost faith in their government, and lack civic awareness, there are deeper forces at play. These are cultural forces of apathy and cynicism that call for a paradigm shift of the kind that I believe only new technologies can spark.

Trista Harris
President, Minnesota Council on Foundations

The line between for-profit and nonprofit is blurring as social enterprise grows. I think this has great potential to help us solve some of society’s most persistent challenges by working across sectors.

Want to hear more? 

You can watch video of some of our favorite moments from the conference on our website, including keynote speakers. Watch now.