Is Bristol Pound helping to create a green economy?
2nd September 2019
Diana Finch has 30 years’ experience in designing and managing accounting operations. For the last 20 years she has held senior management and leadership positions primarily in non-profit organisations. She joined Bristol Pound as Managing Director in 2018. Diana also offers consultancy in areas such as impact measurement, quality assurance systems and business modelling.
People often ask me what the point of the Bristol Pound is, and whether it really makes a difference. I’m hoping to explain some of that in this blog.
When people talk about the health of the economy, they are usually talking about such things as GDP, interest rates, the value of sterling against other currencies, unemployment rates and so on. I would argue that most of these indicators miss the point.
I’d like to start with my own definition of the economy. I see the economy as a social system which enables the resources that the planet provides to be distributed to the people living on the planet.
The problem is that mainstream economic thinking is still based on a theoretical approach where economics is considered in isolation from people and planet. The wellbeing of the people, the natural resources that we use to make our goods, the pollution and waste we create – these are all considered external to the economic model. Of course this is crazy! After all, we can only create the goods and services we exchange through trade if the planet has the resources we use to make the goods, and if the people are able to work. More to the point, if we want to still have a functioning economy in a hundred or a thousand years’ time, we should be thinking carefully about maintaining the ecosystem which enables the whole thing to keep going. Far from being an isolated system, the economy is affected by and in turn affects both the people and the planet.
From this perspective, regardless of the fortunes of individual countries, corporations or individuals, I would say the economy is in a dire state. The social systems and rules that determine how the economy functions have served to massively increase inequality, to degrade the planet’s natural resources, to unbalance the ecosystem, and pollute soil, water and air. We are facing an extinction crisis and global warming caused by our activity. The financial system demands constant growth to pay interest on debt, and the main purpose of most companies is basically the extraction of value for the benefit of shareholders. But constant growth in a world of finite resources makes no sense.
So where does Bristol Pound fit into this? First, it encourages localisation of supply and demand. This not only helps with transport-related CO2 emissions, but on a deeper level, helps to join up production, consumption and waste in a circular economy. Secondly, it encourages small local businesses, who are closely connected to both their customers and their staff, and thus create a fairer system. You won’t find many small businesses where the owner earns hundreds of times what his or her staff earn! Thirdly, it seeks to limit the extraction of wealth from the local economy, instead encouraging the money to circulate, so encouraging investment and job creation right here in Bristol. Fourthly, by encouraging a local economy based around highly diverse businesses, it helps to insulate Bristol from the very damaging global economic weather that can so easily devastate local economies that have focused on a few big players in just one industrial sector.
Can the Bristol Pound alone fix all the ills of the current global economic system? No. But as part of a worldwide movement to localise supply and demand chains, to build circular economies and address inequality, we can at least be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And by raising awareness of all these issues, hopefully we can gradually help people to understand that they have the power to make choices about how they consume and how they use money. If enough people start to realise that there is a choice and responsibility in their financial behaviour, the economy can change.
What can you do? First, you can join £B and start spending money within the £B network. Second, you can think about whether your business could align itself with our work, becoming a member, a business champion or even a sponsor. Third, you can help us secure the future growth of the £B by supporting our crowdfunding campaign, set to launch in late September – you can sign up to be kept informed here.