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If you feel like your values are being undermined in a world where only the loudest voices are heard, you can do something about it.
Even when money is scarce, you can direct your finances in ways that support the causes you care about. And there are ways to exert your influence on the things that are important to you without spending a cent.
What are socially conscious actions?
The steps you take to support causes based on your values — such as human rights, the environment, and helping animals — are called socially conscious actions. It can include:
Consumer Choices: Make purchasing decisions based on the company’s commitment to the values it prioritizes, such as the environment, locally or ethically sourced products, or items with natural or sustainable ingredients.
Individual post: A friction-free, low-cost way to enrich your voice and values. It can be as simple as getting involved in a volunteer project in your area or participating in a national effort.
Financial procedures: This can include charitable giving to organizations involved in causes you care about, choosing a bank wisely and a targeted investment.
What is socially conscious consumption?
In short, it’s choosing to spend your money in a way that supports your values. Every dollar builds momentum by increasing demand, so that companies that act responsibly understand the message: This is what people want.
Maybe it’s recyclable packaging, locally grown food, ethically produced goods, or cruelty-free products. According to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature, “Consumers change their behavior, with [Google] Global searches for sustainable goods increased 71%” between 2016 and 2020.
“The relationship between sweatshops and fast fashion is a good example,” says Patricia Ellingworth, a professor at Northeastern University and author of Giving Now: Accelerating Human Rights for All. She says many producers of cheap clothing are notorious for their meager wages and dangerous working conditions. “We don’t need 10 shirts, we can buy transparent and ethical brands.”
Find out if the company has been certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that measures environmental and social equity performance and for-profit impact. You can check files B Corporation . Certificate The guide to see if the company you are considering doing business with has met the criteria of B Corp. for socially conscious influence.
How to be socially conscious without spending a penny
One word: volunteer. And it doesn’t have to be a single effort. Volunteer networks, called “mutual aid societies,” often provide childcare or deliver groceries or medicines and other services to those in need or without transportation.
Some volunteer organizations cook, serve, or deliver meals to fellow community members.
The strength of socially conscious volunteer groups is that “people decide together what they want to do and how they want to help. And then they help each other. And the people they help may help other people at some point,” says Illingworth.
Often, these efforts provide an opportunity for volunteers to do things they love, like cooking or sewing — or perhaps a little extra data processing.
“One of the new students in the Philanthropy and Ethics course dedicates 30 minutes a day to helping others,” says Illingworth. Then, he and another student volunteer co-founded a nonprofit called Donor Lab, which uses data science to help nonprofits reach donors.
“They wanted to use their skills to help make the world a better place.”
Socially informed financial decisions, including charitable giving
Even given such philanthropic powers as the Gates, Ford, and Getty Foundations, individuals still account for more than two-thirds of all US charitable contributions, according to the National Philanthropic Trust’s analysis of the 2021 Giving USA annual report. However, if your budget doesn’t include a lot of “giving,” you can still use the power of your daily dollars to drive change. Here are some ideas:
Target your influence
Budget carefully to see how much you can save, then choose one area of influence and focus on that. Your money may go further with a small charity in your hometown. However, you can also choose a national non-profit organization known for effective spending by checking their advisory score on Charity Navigator. Also consider combining and doubling your contribution with other small donors by hosting a fundraising effort – perhaps something like a neighborhood yard sale with proceeds that benefit a good cause.
Check with your employer to see if they will match some or all of your nonprofit donation. Some companies do this.
Be aware – and reduce – your carbon footprint
This can include cycling more, driving and flying less. You might be thinking of a hybrid or electric car. and choose LEED-certified housing when traveling.
Check your bank
Being open to changing your financial services provider can allow you to find local options that may better fit your values. Community banks and local credit unions can be excellent options and may be easier to research than large national financial institutions. These local money centers often get involved with local charities, social causes, and charitable projects that deserve your support.
Board members are often notable business leaders that you may have heard of — or even known.
In your research, be aware of marketing tactics called “green wash. “This is when companies exaggerate their environmental priorities to win favor with socially conscious consumers.