2022: The year in images

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The past year has been anything but ordinary. The unnerving combination of war, inflation, energy scarcity, and climate change wasn’t what anyone expected as life was just beginning to move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But 2022 has also proven to be a year of resilience. We asked McKinsey Global Publishing designers for a lens on the images that helped bring our insights to life, and their selections are telling: a pop of color against an ominous backdrop, a flower blooming on a leafless branch, vibrant flags waving. In broad strokes, these images paint a vivid picture of a world on the path toward sustainable and inclusive growth.

As we turn a new corner, we are reminded of this year’s pivotal moments and their lessons. Here is McKinsey Global Publishing’s visual take on 2022.

The net-zero transition: What it would cost, what it could bring

The net-zero transition calls for global economic transformation. What would it take to fulfill that ambition? This rich vegetation, illuminating the seven continents equally, symbolizes an adaptable and collaborative approach toward net zero, where all embrace the possibility—and reap the benefits—of a cleaner future.

Black representation in the beauty industry

Though Black consumers spend billions on the beauty market, they remain dissatisfied with the limited products available to them. As this image of proud, confident Black women reflects, Black beauty comes in a wide range of bold, vibrant colors. Companies that miss the beauty mark are doing a disservice to Black consumers—and leaving opportunity on the table.

War in Ukraine: Twelve disruptions changing the world

For much of this year, the world has remained on edge as the war rages on in Ukraine. The war set in motion uncertainty about the economy, food security, and most importantly, human life. As the outcome hangs in the balance, disruptions abound—as this taut balloon precariously hanging amid barbed wire illustrates.

The Great Attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools?

The Great Attrition has brought stark challenges to scrambling employers. Implementing new ways to attract and retain talent is a necessity. Otherwise, employers may not be able to remain afloat, ultimately finding themselves at the bottom of a vast but empty talent pool.

Active allyship: Do your LGBTQ+ employees feel supported and included?

Despite some advances in the workplace, many in the LGBTQ+ community continue to feel left out. Feelings of isolation at work have crystallized the call for change. In this image, hands wave colorful, unique flags with pride, as a symbol of allyship.

The childcare conundrum: How can companies ease working parents’ return to the office?

A new normal brought parents and children together for remote work and school at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the lack of adequate, affordable childcare placed parents, especially mothers, in an unyielding tug of war. The childcare conundrum left them feeling worn and overlooked, much like this tattered stuffed bunny left to fend for itself.

Quiet quitting and performance management

The term “quiet quitting” began trending this year, as employees across the globe opted to quietly disengage, rather than resign. Employees unable to find purpose and meaning at work are no longer tempted by mouthwatering offers. Managers unable to respond to their needs face an uphill battle that could soon reach a melting point, as this image of a soppy ice cream cone depicts.

Present company included: Prioritizing mental health and well-being for all

In 2022, alarming headlines about war, new virus strains, and a global economic crisis affected the mental well-being of people all over the world. Yet, as this single red flower emerges triumphant from a barren landscape, hope springs eternal. A renewed focus on self-care and mental health can lead to a brighter, more fruitful outlook.

Six characteristics define the net-zero transition

While the challenges impeding climate action are varied and complex, delays have an infinitely greater cost. With so many components to tackle and opportunities to gain, companies weighing the odds could do well to embrace the net-zero transition now. The alternative to a dense forest—an arid field devoid of trees—could leave hope just beyond the horizon.

Reducing food loss: What grocery retailers and manufacturers can do

One in nine people struggles with hunger, and food loss is a major reason. As retailers examine the food journey from farm to table, they envision strategic ways to prevent societal and environmental damage. The image of these plentiful and plump ripe tomatoes evokes a more hopeful, abundant future.

Ten lessons from the first two years of COVID-19

The two-year anniversary of the pandemic highlighted the many lessons learned—the resilience, preparation, and adaptable leadership—needed to secure a healthier global future. With an eye toward the future, the time will come to breathe a collective, liberating sigh of relief, as this image of a carefree hand and a billowing mask connotes.

Mobility’s net-zero transition: A look at opportunities and risks

The ill effects of greenhouse-gas emissions have led to an increased need for low-emission transportation. The global effort to expand the use of electric vehicles will require alignment on the same path, reflecting the symmetry and cohesion of these green tracks and paving the way for a more abundant future.

Why digital trust truly matters

Fostering digital trust is a big boost for business. This image of rotating, interlocking gold rings represents the enduring combination that customers want to see when it comes to their data—strong cybersecurity, policy, and vigilance, all working together to protect what matters most.

How can individuals use their influence for positive change?

Being a force for good is not just about funding but also about creating a framework for action and impact. The commitment is an ongoing journey, as illustrated by this image of a determined duck, eking out her own path, the wind at her back. Just like waves in an ocean, making the decision to be a force for good can have ripple effects on others.

To slow down attrition, pay closer attention to what workers really need

The Great Resignation has given employers important insight into what workers need most. Unlike the sweet indulgence one can take in a pair of comfortable, worn shoes, employers can’t afford to relax. Instead, they must remain on their toes, flexible and ever ready to counter the steady march of workers exiting stage left.

Quantum computing just might save the planet

The power of quantum computing signals bold new solutions for climate change. As the technology enters the next phase of development, it is alive with possibility. Shedding light on the world’s most critical challenges, it is also opening the door to more innovative approaches, just as the illuminated petals of this ripening, translucent flower suggest.

The Shortlist: Want to improve your cloud economics? Then it’s time to let go of the past.

Many companies have yet to realize the full value of their cloud potential. But without the right digital talent, that dream may remain unrealized. Until then, their potential appears much like this obscure image of a broken bridge across a cloudy sky—distant and out of reach.

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