The Best of 2021

December 30, 2021


As the year winds to a close, I’m taking a moment to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned this year and to acknowledge some of the books, people and ideas that resonated with me. So, here’s my quick take on the best of 2021 in books, influencers and significant brand moves. Don’t forget to join me over on our social channels and tell me about your favorites.

Favorite Books of 2021

I generally read non-fiction books. However, over the last few years, I’ve found myself turning in the business and self-improvement books for memoirs and biographies. I find reading books through the eyes and experiences of other people is really important. Although, I still left two fantastic business and self-improvement books on the list.

  1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. Unbound by Tarana Burke
  3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kailing
  4. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  5. Mindset by Carol Dweck

Favorite Follows of 2021

I don’t use social media very much personally. So, when I do, I’ve tried to be intentional about the type of content I consume there. The following Instagram accounts were a few of my favorites this year.

  1. @dinosandcomics Because we are all little broken and these offer a generous amount of heart and humor.
  2. @worldeconomicforum Because I love learning about innovation and game-changers at a global level.  
  3. @ijeomaoluo Because I care about identifying and changing my own biases and learning how to better support minorities and marginalized communities.
  4. @hipcamp To inspire and satisfy my wanderlust.
  5. @oneearth Because we live in an awe-inspiring and majestic world and we have a responsibility to protect it.

Favorite Brand Moments 

Another great part of 2021 has been noticing brands who are stepping up on purpose. While these represent only a small fraction of the great things being done, I wanted to acknowledge some of the changes companies are making to put their purpose and their values into action.

1. The pandemic has put a spotlight on mental health and more brands are stepping up to help.

Headspace for Teens announced their app would be free for teens 13 – 18. You can learn more here.

2. Many brands are re-evaluating employee benefits, particularly around paid leave.

Bumble made a move to create a new “compassionate paid leave policy” which includes mental health, violent crime, birth/adoption/surrogacy, caregiving, bereavement and more. This is a great model for brands.

3. Collaboration and creativity are becoming necessary to solve some of our greatest social and environmental issues.

NextHome: 2021 is a collaborative design contest inviting architects to the table to help solve the affordable housing crisis. You can learn about the contest and winning design here.

4. We’re learning that one way to lessen the growing social divide is to start hearing each other.

A Mile in My Shoes in a fascinating new project in the UK designed to encourage people to listen to and learn from the life experiences of others. View the project here.  

5. Companies are getting clear about their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals and exploring if, and how, to change the way they do business.

Mattel launched its first doll collection made from recycled ocean-bound plastic. Read the article here.

The pandemic, along with staffing issues, inflation and ongoing social, environmental and political issues, have cast a pretty hefty cloud on the business community. However, it’s also making us rethink the traditional model of business and in many cases moving us forward in positive ways. Heading into 2022, I’m encouraged by these changes knowing that these small brand moves often lead to broader category shifts. What are you seeing?




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Sign up for short weekly emails designed to help you grow your business on purpose.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.