From art to ethics: how NFTs can tap into brand values

The air is abuzz with discourse on blockchain biz, with billions of dollars being funneled into this industry that’s growing at breakneck speed.

As expected, there have been a few bumps in the road; we recently unpacked the sustainability concerns of cryptocurrency, for example. But no one can deny their promise is electrifying. Beyond their fame as expensive art pieces, NFTs have the potential to activate technology towards bettering the world.

Sure, most of the top-selling NFTs (17 of which are worth $1 million dollars apiece) are digital art pieces predominantly created for commercial gain. But there’s more to this story. They can also be a tool to express brand values that run deeper. Here’s how.

A few sources of inspiration

Consider Endangered NFTs, which aims to raise funds for UNESCO-classified endangered species. It supports both independent artists who create the NFTs and NGOs dedicated to conservation by splitting the proceeds between them.

Another iconic example is Clock, which sold for 6,953 ETH ($52.7 million USD). The NFT tracks the days of infamous whistleblower Julian Assange’s prison time, and the proceeds of its sale went to his legal defense.

The concept behind the German project CleanOcean, still in development, is to activate NFTs as a reward system for volunteer work. Their NFT platform proposes to collect funds from donors and pay them forward to volunteer groups who clean waterfronts of plastic pollutants like water bottles and fishing nets.

Women-led NFTs are also making their way up the charts (last year, Bloomberg reported that men were responsible for over 79% of all NFT sales). 26-year-old Maliha Abidi founded the WomenRise NFT collection, a collection of NFTs based on 453 hand-drawn pieces that represent women artists, activists, coders and more of varying backgrounds. 7.5% of the proceeds go to organizations supporting gender equity and girls’ education.

Some potential partner platforms

Given the rise and prominence of the platform economy, it should come as no surprise that this is the arena where the most NFT philanthropy is taking place.

NFT platforms are mainly functioning in two ways: first, as hosts or online galleries for NFT creators that donate their proceeds to social impact organizations, or as facilitators for the charitable donations themselves.

Orica is an example of a host platform. They identify as an artist-led, ethical NFT platform that strives to accelerate wealth equality through the sales of digital assets. They use the Binance Smart Chain (BNB), a POS cryptocurrency (known for its vastly reduced eco-footprint compared to proof-of-work

Orica hosts minority artists, often from the Global South, and enables them to share their profits with a social cause of their choosing.

Other organizations, like The Giving Block, operate as facilitators for nonprofits to receive donations in cryptocurrency. It was co-founded in 2018 by Alex Wilson and Pat Duffy, who noticed that millions of dollars were flowing to nonprofits that were not equipped to handle the donations. (It’s not uncommon for organizations to auction off NFTs for charity, and since NFTs are purchased through crypto, nonprofits need to be prepared to accept it.)

The Giving Block also offers marketing strategies and other avenues that connect nonprofits to donors who are willing to pay in crypto.


What mark will you make?

It’s been a while since a technological advancement changed the game like this. The democratization of currency and information that crypto offers is shaping culture every day—inspiring growth, of course, but also a radical reimagining of how we structure the world around us.

So, maybe it’s time for your brand to take the plunge into NFTs.

It’s possible to do some good while you’re there.