Beyond Spending: Moving Money for People and Planet

Do you know where you money is? Do you know what your money is doing? These questions introduced this week’s School Seminar led by Dr Mark Davis.

Mark’s seminar was framed by three simple yet provocative ideas:

  1. Ethical shopping alone isn’t going to save us;
  2. Despite the neoliberal mantra… There are Alternatives; and
  3. If you really want to Change the World, Move Your Money

With around $185TN already invested in carbon-intensive stocks and bonds keeping the world on a trajectory for catastrophic global heating, there is an urgent need to move our money out of mainstream finance and into safe alternatives that demonstrably deliver more positive social and environmental outcomes.

After all, each one of us is already an “impact investor” – we just don’t know we’re investors or what kind of impact our investments are having.

Mark argued that money is deeply and richly qualitative. By applying the relational economic sociology of Zelizer, Bandelj, Wherry and others, he showed that we treat money very differently depending upon how and from whom we have received it – i.e. whether as “gift, payment or entitlement” – and also in how we then ‘earmark’ money for specific purposes – i.e. how we allocate money to different pots for specific relationships or events.

With around two-thirds of people saying they would like to support companies that contribute positively to society and environment, how we choose to spend, borrow, save and invest is very far from instrumentally rational. But it does make a material difference to the kind of world we are creating for ourselves and for future generations.

Mark ended his talk by calling for more sociologists to take seriously the problem of money and finance.