Post March: What’s Next? Focus on Finance
We marched. We came together in cities across the globe to protest the inauguration of a president who does not embody the values we espouse. So many of us marched, it was the largest recorded protest in U.S. history. There were so many thoughtful messages and humorous signs, and many different issues to embrace and hold up. We saw old friends, made new ones, deepened our connection to community and our commitment to our causes. And many of us are asking, “Now what?”
Now is precisely the time when we want to take action. It is time to be strategic about leveraging all that we have for the issues we care about. In addition to calling our congress members and speaking up for our values, we all can take action by paying attention to where our money is spent, invested, and deposited. I recently wrote about shopping locally and in particular, about supporting our women-owned local businesses. Interestingly enough, the importance of keeping our dollars in our local communities is something on which all sides seem to agree. While distant online retailers can be incredibly convenient, shopping locally keeps more of our dollars in our local economy, supporting our communities. This shift in spending behaviors can make a big impact in terms of the solutions we are seeking.
“Places that are home to numerous locally owned businesses are more prosperous, sustainable, and resilient than those in which much of the economy is controlled by a few big corporations.” — Institute for Local Self Reliance
In a similar vein of activism, I encourage each of us to consider just who benefits from every dollar we save in addition to those we spend. By moving our money to our local banks, we benefit ourselves (often with lower fees), our local economy, and our neighborhood small businesses. And, by keeping our money local, we may actually have far less to protest in the future, as far as environmental hazards such a pipelines and mountaintop removal. Small businesses, which create the majority of new jobs, depend heavily on small, local banks for financing. Consider this: small and mid-sized banks control less than one-quarter of all bank assets, yet they account for more than half of all small business lending. Big banks, meanwhile, allocate relatively little of their resources to small businesses. The largest 20 banks, which now control 57 percent of all bank assets, devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business (For more on this topic see: Institute for Local Self Reliance).
Another action step we can take to disrupt business-as-usual is to make sure our retirement account and any other assets are invested with our values, in companies and teams that are working on solving issues important to both people and planet. Ensuring that each and every company in our portfolios is working on some part of the solution is essential to acting on climate, moving us toward the next fair, just, and sustainable economy, and to moving all of us forward. Additionally, checking to make sure each and every business or corporation in which we invest supports diversity in leadership helps ensure that all of our communities will be represented at the business table, if not in the White House.
An additional way we can be both powerful and impactful in these first 100 days is by choosing to both mentor and hire women and underrepresented communities. With more women and diverse perspectives in positions of power and leadership, the game will change. Diversity matters for lots of reasons, in particular, because it invites more innovation, from which we all benefit. By changing who is at the table, the process of decision making will change as well as the outcomes. With an unpredictable White House, it is up to each of us to do all we can to bring the about change we want to see. Do let me know what actions you decide to take!