A major eco-friendly upgrade is coming to NFTs—here’s what brands need to know


Marketers’ favorite blockchain is about to become 2,000 times more desirable. That’s because an imminent upgrade to Ethereum—the home for over 80% of all NFTs—will reduce the network’s energy usage by 99.95%, rendering the chain some 2,000 times more sustainable, according to experts.

This multi-day upgrade, scheduled for Sept. 13-15, is called “The Merge,” a reference to the outcome that will unite Ethereum’s main blockchain with a separate chain—the Beacon chain—that has been testing the new, eco-friendly infrastructure for more than a year and a half. Once merged with the Beacon chain, Ethereum will adopt this infrastructure, called “proof of stake,” as its own. 

For brands, not only does this upgrade relieve a serious concern about NFTs and sustainability, but it may also present opportunities to onboard more consumers into the Web3 space.

Ever since their emergence into the public spotlight last year, NFTs have been controversial, particularly because of their reliance on Ethereum’s energy-intensive framework. The production of one NFT has been reported to emit as much carbon as a car that drives 500 miles. Considering most brands’ collections contain hundreds or even thousands of tokens, the cumulative impact can be devastating to the already embattled environment.

After The Merge, however, this impact will become negligible, carrying a per-NFT carbon emission closer to that of 20 minutes of TV than a cross-country road trip. Brands including Gap and Blockchain Creative Labs expressed heightened interest in Ethereum as a direct result of The Merge.

“[There’s] this really big apprehension around the eco-friendliness of crypto and Web3, and I think that because The Merge will enable [the network] to be much less energy-intensive, it will be an answer to that question,” said Julian Alexander, senior strategist of Web3 and metaverse at agency R/GA.

Still, the mere execution of The Merge does not guarantee success for brands. Ineffective marketing will do little to convince consumers that things have changed, especially younger generations who are more likely to value sustainability.

There also remain serious imperfections of Ethereum that could deter brands from using the network. High transaction fees and low throughput (transactions per second) may send brands shopping for any one of the numerous competing chains on the market, from the UX-friendly Solana to Dapper Labs’ highly scalable Flow.

How to market The Merge

Ethereum’s upgrade offers brands the chance to attract scores of new consumers who are skeptical of Web3’s environmental impact. But this advantage is only as helpful as the marketing used to explain the changes. 

“The big challenge is going to be pushing the narrative,” said Ty Duperron, chief product officer of software company Daz 3D. “Until that happens, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong.”

Pushing a new narrative, especially when it conflicts with the dominant public perception, can only be achieved through proper education. 

ConsenSys, a blockchain technology company, is attempting to educate via a campaign that will feature influencers, subject matter experts and NFTs. The effort is anchored by an interactive website that explains the upgrade and its three main areas of improvement: sustainability, security and scalability. (The proof-of-stake model is considered more secure because it eases the barriers to become a steward of the network, thus increasing decentralization. And while The Merge will not immediately improve scalability, it does open the door for such upgrades in the future.)

“We really want to help demystify some of the technical advances and help people understand what the underlying meaning of this shift is going to be,” said ConsenSys Chief Marketing Officer Neal Gorevic.



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