It’s time to talk about money. Money matters so more than we recognise in our daily life, and it really is the of the main ways of expressing our preferences in how we want the world to look like.
Mikel Garcia Prieto Arrabal is an expert on the matter, he works as Spanish CEO of Triodos, that commits to only use and invest customers‘ money for programs of sustainability or social impact.
The real price of things
Mikel explains why the market prices of products often fail to represent the true costs inflicted in their production, transportation and usage. Externalities on the environment, as well as social costs are not counted toward the prices we pay, and yet they have to be covered by the whole of society. Think of organic vegetables: Even though you pay more at the supermarket cashier, their cost for your personal health and the one of farm workers is smaller and they do not contribute to the erosion of soil, the pollution of air and groundwater and the reduction in biodiversity. Consumers need to see the whole story behind the product.
From ideas to practice
Mikel has hope: he speaks about the variety of great ideas that already exist to transform our wold into a fairer and more sustainable place: Taking the example of the circular economy, he shows how businesses, governments and academia alike are already working to promote the same progress in our society. His criticism? We need to start moving faster from theory to reality, from talking to doing.
Real commitments to sustainability
Although there is a growing trend of greener and more socially responsible programs in business, Mikel reminds us to look at the whole picture and distinguish between those corporations investing some money in charity programs and those putting the social / environmental good at the heart of their operation, something that Harvard economist Michael Porter calls „shared value“. Triodos core promise is to only invest in businesses, startups and programs that make the world better on the environmental or social side, and gives full transparency about their investments to their customers. Their long-term vision has allowed them to support many great initiatives, and also survive the global financial crisis in a much smoother way than most of the risk-taking commercial banks of the world have.
Our money, our responsibility
All of us use money, and we should manage our budget in a way that reflects our own values in life. Mikel reminds us of the three functions of money that we should consider as individual bankers: Consumption, savings and giving. Just as we look at companies progress in becoming more sustainable, we should ask ourselves how much of our consumption/saving/donation money goes towards sustainable and social causes, and try to improve that number year by year.