5 Positive Impact Stories from 2018

February 26, 2019

We looked back on 2018 and found quite a few reasons to be encouraged. 

When viewed through the lens of Climate Action, Gender Equality, and Better Health news, 2018 was a challenging year. The current administration continued to promote policies that threatened the climate and reduced protections for vulnerable groups. The struggle for equal pay, harassment-free workplaces, and work-life balance demonstrated how many employers still maintain an unlevel playing field. Clearly, if you stayed on top of the headlines this past year, it was easy to get discouraged.

In a word, don’t! If you read beyond your news feed alerts, you’d have discovered there were moments of positivity and progress. In fact, we’ve looked back on 2018 and found quite a few reasons to be encouraged. 

And if you’re like us, when you’re encouraged, you feel hopeful, and when you’re hopeful, you get inspired. Ideally, that inspiration then fosters action.

So, as we kick off 2019, let’s look at five positive impact stories from 2018. Check them out and get inspired to take action in the year ahead.   

Climate Action

1. Climate Negotiators Reach an Overtime Deal to Keep Paris Pact Alive: Back in June 2017, the Trump administration shocked the world by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Drafted in 2015 and signed in 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement aims to stem the impacts of climate change through worldwide coordinated action and policy. 

Specifically, the Paris Agreement sets a goal of preventing the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while also urging nations to strive even harder, with the goal of limiting increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. With Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the agreement, the future of meaningful, collaborative efforts to stop climate change became uncertain. 

But on December 15, 2018, at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, nearly 200 countries pressed forward and agreed on a uniform set of standards for how nations should measure climate-damaging emissions, as well as how to track their climate action policies. They also advocated that countries get a head start and aim to aggressively cut emissions in advance of 2020’s climate conference. In a particularly surprising update, China announced it has already made headway, having reduced emissions and met carbon intensity goals three years ahead of schedule. At COP24, Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative on Climate Change, affirmed the country’s commitment to further emission reductions, green- and low-carbon development, and carbon-emission trading, all in the service of aligning with Paris standards. 

According to the New York Times, “supporters of the [2018] deal … said that they hoped the new rules would help build a virtuous cycle of trust and cooperation among countries, at a time when global politics seems increasingly fractured.” In sum, this means the majority of the world’s countries actually care about climate change, they’ve trusted each other enough to agree on the same set of rules to address the problem, and are now working together to hold each other accountable. It’s much-needed cooperation on a grand scale. 

Learn more about how your investments can make a difference in Climate Action.  

2. 81% of Voters Support a Green New Deal, Survey Finds: The Green New Deal has gotten a lot of media attention lately, thanks to newly elected New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who championed the policy on her first week in Washington. At its core, the Green New Deal aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions to align with the Paris Agreement goals, while also guaranteeing government jobs so Americans can create the policies and infrastructure needed to reach the Paris standards. Thirty-eight congressional representatives have indicated they’d back a Green New Deal, and an independent study from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found “overwhelming support” from voters across all parties. 

And while previous versions of a Green New Deal have been proposed over the years, the momentum of Ocasio-Cortez and the new Congress has made it seem more attainable than ever before. It’s an idea whose time may have come, especially in the run-up to the 2020 election. 

And speaking of Ocasio-Cortez…

Gender Equality

3. Record Number of Women Heading to Congress: The 2018 midterm elections were a watershed moment for equal representation in Washington. In January 2019, 118 women were sworn into Congress, beating the previous record of 107. Our new senators and representatives now look more like America than ever before: Massachusetts elected its first black female representative, Michigan and Minnesota elected the first two Muslim women to Congress, and Arizona and Tennessee both elected female senators for the first time. Additionally, nine women were elected as governors across the country. 

“Diversity matters,” Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, told NBC News. “Women are the ones that bring up these women’s issues. Similarly with people of color, it’s important having someone at the table to say, ‘Hey, have you thought about how your policy position is going to affect other communities?’” 

We agree: It’s exciting to see better representation among our elected officials. When our leadership resembles the electorate, more inclusive policies tend to follow.

4. Les Moonves, ex-CBS Chief, Will Not Get Severance: When sexual harassment and assault allegations first surfaced in August against Les Moonves, then-president of CBS, it was assumed that he would be dismissed with a golden parachute in the form of a $120 million severance payment. No more. In December, an independent investigation by two law firms concluded that Moonves should be fired for cause, with no severance at all, for both sexual and corporate misconduct. As an additional step, the company has pledged $20 million in grants to organizations working against workplace harassment

CBS’s decision sends a clear signal to powerful and abusive men who had long acted with impunity in the workplace: You’ll now be held accountable, and your actions will (literally) cost you. It also sends a strong message to other corporations: Make sure your employees feel safe at work, or both your reputation and your bottom line will take a hit.

*January 17, 2019, update: CNBC reports that Moonves is going to binding arbitration with CBS over his exit package. We'll be watching the story closely and report back when a resolution has been determined.  

Of course, we still have a long way to go when it comes to eliminating sexual harassment at work. So in the coming year, we’d love to see more companies update their policies to proactively support women, and then regularly measure the impact of those policies so there’s real accountability. Policies could include sexual harassment training for staff, ongoing company culture audits, and better representation of women on executive boards. By taking the lead in gender equality practices, companies can make stories like CBS and Moonves become relics of the past. 

Check out how your investments can make a positive impact in Gender Equality.

Better Health

5. An Island Nation’s Health Experiment: Vaccines Delivered by Drone: On the remote islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, approximately 20 percent of children younger than 5 don’t get all their vaccinations. Logistics are often the culprit: Many villages are only accessible by boat or via flood-prone trails, and some islands don’t have refrigeration and/or electricity to preserve or store the inoculations. 

In response to these challenges, UNICEF, the Australian government, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria partnered to send vaccines to Vanuatu via drone. The pilot program will serve three of Vanuatu’s 83 volcanic islands, with plans to expand should this initial test run go successfully. To help ensure that success, the partners also have plans to educate locals about what drones are and how vaccinations work. 

Finally, other nations are also closely watching the program’s results, as drone-administered medical deliveries could be a powerful tool to adapt for their own hard-to-reach populations. Thinking closer to home and going beyond vaccines, the U.S. could harness drones to serve regions impacted by hurricanes, mudslides, and wildfires, among other natural disasters, using this go-anywhere technology to get life-saving medicine and health supplies to regions that need it most.   

See how your investments can support Better Health.

As we head into 2019, we’ll continue to keep you updated with inspiring stories like these. Let’s stay motivated, both with our money and our time, to encourage the positive changes we wish to see in the world.