This monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often “Ten Things” will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, sometimes bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert–or everyday citizen–to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of “Ten Things,” with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for “Ten Things” should e-mail us at NationTenThings@gmail.com or use the e-form at the bottom of this page.
At a time when the financial crisis has eroded any faith we might have had in big business and the capital markets, it is more important than ever to support companies that are having a positive impact on their communities, employees, consumers and the environment.
Andrew Kassoy, who founded B Corporations with his friends Bart Houlahan and Jay Coen Gilbert, has built a model for companies that do business to benefit society rather than just make profits. The objective of B Corporations is to provide the market infrastructure to help such mission-based businesses succeed. The 190 firms that make up the B Corporations network earn their profits by helping to solve social and environmental problems.
Kassoy, a former private equity investor who managed a good chunk of Michael Dell’s estate, offers a perspective developed from B Corporations that will help entrepreneurs, consumers, community members and voters learn how they can use the financial crisis as a one-time opportunity to build a new economy. Here are Kassoy’s suggestions of things each of us can do to stimulate the economy in a way that will have a positive long-term impact on society.
Business owners can take their banking to a “good bank” or mission-based bank members of Community Development Bankers Association and Coalition of Community Development Institutions. These organizations lend to serve Main Street, not Wall Street.
Owners and consumers alike should buy supplies from companies that create benefit for the community. For a starter list, check out the B Corporation community.
Assess the social and environmental impact of the company you run, work for or buy from. Here’s a guide on to how to do it with resources to implement best practices.
Make sure the company you own or work for institutes a purchasing policy that supports good companies. For example, it should purchase sustainable paper from a place like New Leaf Paper and “charitable” office products from Give Something Back. And it could do business with a community bank like ShoreBank Corporation.
If you have a financial adviser, ask her how she measures the social return on your investments. Tell her you want to make money and make a difference. If you don’t get a good answer, change to a socially responsible investment professional. Click here for a listing. Download “Top 10 Questions,” for more information.
Devote at least 1 percent of your personal assets to making responsible investments. Every year make a commitment to double the percentage of your assets that are invested in responsible financial instruments. Engage in mission-based investing.
Invest in e3bank, the first bank whose business model is based on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits. It is also the first bank that’s democratizing private-impact investment opportunities by allowing individuals to own a piece of the bank–for as little as a $5,000 investment.
As a consumer, purchase products from good companies. Buy from local businesses that build stronger communities, or from socially responsible businesses that have a smaller carbon footprint, that sell products like organic or fair- trade foods–which are healthier and better for the environment–or that maintain a better work environment for their employees. Look for social enterprises that provide products and jobs to people and communities in need. Go to Business Alliance for Local Living Economies for some examples.
Put your savings into a local bank that will use your money to build stronger small businesses and healthier communities in your area, and that know their customers well enough not to make bad loans. Your deposits in these banks are federally insured up to $250,000. Go to Shore Banks for more information.
Demand that any government stimulus money that goes to your state benefit the community. Be sure that any projects or initiatives using this money have prevailing-wage jobs. It’s your money; make it work for you.
CONCEIVED by WALTER MOSLEY with research by Rae Gomes