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How can and should businesses and finance support social movements to drive change? 

From Extinction Rebellion to Bill Gates, the support for a proactive government  for climate action is clear. But the role of business and finance in making this happen is less obvious: can the ‘rule-taking’ private sector legitimately take on a ‘rule-maker’ role through lobbying and advocacy without undermining democracy?

Joining us in the discussion was Jennifer Allyn, Director of Programs and Campaigns at ClimateVoice, an organisation whose mission is to mobilise the workforce to urge companies to go ‘all in’ on climate, both in business practices and policy advocacy. And Alan Schwartz, founder and funder of the Universal Commons project. (Also co-author of ‘Why Sustainable Investment Means Investing in Advocacy‘). 

Anna introduced the key ideas, visible on the mural below and viewable here.

Outlined by Alan was the key role he thinks businesses could and should take to act positively towards changing policies that affect the climate crisis:

  • Businesses exist to make a profit and cannot be expected to act against their own economic interest.
  • There are some areas where economic profit and sustainability or good corporate citizenship overlap.
  • Business and finance should lobby to broaden this space, given that nothing short of system change is needed to avert the climate crisis.
  • When businesses partner with civil society and get involved in ethical advocacy, great things can be achieved.

Jennifer introduced Climate Voice and the philosophy of the organisation that revolves around workers acting as key pressure points in businesses:

  • Businesses face challenges in being explicitly ‘political’. Climate Voice asked companies who claimed they were pro-climate whether they would support the climate action bill in the US, the Build Back Better Act, to which the answer from most of the organisations was ‘no’.
  • Companies felt unable to disassociate themselves from the loud, anti Build Back Better voice of trade associations. Traditionally, taking a ‘side’ in politics, especially in the polarised US, has been avoided by businesses.
  • However, workers within businesses can play a crucial role in influencing the political direction of the business. Employees can group together and encourage their employers to live up to targets and climate change rhetoric they produce. Pushing from within is the philosophy behind Climate Voice. 

Member questions included ‘how can businesses act together with civil society, and be involved in advocacy in countries where authoritarian governments or political instability limit the influence you can have?’ and ‘how can recent graduates be activists in workspaces where the power imbalance is so strong?’

The key conclusion was that business can and should play more of a positive role in politics whether pushed from below by workers, or by C-Suite decisions that make businesses more actively ‘political’. As Jennifer put it, the absence of climate policies was decades’ worth of work by the fossil fuel industry. So lobbying for positive climate action should be something businesses get behind. After all, we know lobbying works.

Watch the session on YouTube here (for an overview of the core ideas, start at 3:15, for the start of the discussion with the speakers, at 41:50). 

Join us in January as we talk to bestselling author Azeem Azhar for an in person session in London’s Impact Hub Kings Cross.

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There are a vast selection of books that can deepen our knowledge of our economic system and our understanding of how to practically change the system to support human and ecological wellbeing. 

This past week, we reached out to our member network to suggest their top picks for these kinds of books. Here’s the result of this participatory process, listed alphabetically.

The  2021 Wellbeing Economy Reading List:

  1. Prosocial– Paul W.B. Atkins, David Sloan Wilson and Steven C. Hayes

2. Rethinking Racial Capitalism- Gargi Bhattacharyya

3. Humankind – Rutger Bregman

4. The New Possible – Philip Clayton

5. Sacred Economics – Charles Eisenstein

6. Green Swans – John Elkington

7. Debt: The First 5000 Years- David Graeber

8. Less is more – Jason Hickel 

9. Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer 

10. The Value of Everything- Mariana Mazzucato

11. The Nordic Theory of Everything- Anu Partanen

12. How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy – Raj Patel 

13. The Tyranny of Merit- Michael Sanden

14. The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

15. Growing Young: How friendship, optimism and kindness can help  you live to 100 – Marta Zaraska

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In case you missed them, here is a list of our Wellbeing Economics book recommendations from 2019 – 2020 This list  compiles recommendations from our members  WEAll members” and the WEAll Read book club.

  1. An Economy of Wellbeing: Mark Anielski
  2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Ha-Joon Chang
  3. Change Everything: Christian Felber
  4. Wellbeing Economy: Lorenzo Fioramonti
  5. The Divide: Jason Hickel
  6. New Economy Business: Margo Hoek
  7. Local Is Our Future: Helena Norberg-Hodge
  8. The Age of Thrivability: Michelle Holliday
  9. Prosperity Without Growth: Tim Jackson
  10. The High Price of Materialism: Tim Kasser
  11. A Finer Future: Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, John Fullerton and Anders Wijkman
  12. Economics Unmasked: Manfred Max-Neef
  13. The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
  14. Doughnut Economics: Kate Raworth
  15. What Money Can’t Buy: Michael J. Sandel
  16. Small is Beautiful: E.F. Schumacher
  17. Local Dollars Local Sense – Michael Shuman
  18. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: John Thackara
  19. The Economics of Arrival: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

During the pandemic, many people are finding themselves with more time on their hands – and many are also in pursuit of new economic ideas and understanding.

WEAll and our members have compiled some recommendations for ‘must-read’ books  to understand the case for, and path towards, a wellbeing economy.

Here’s the result – 20 important books that provide answers, inspiration and hope.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive – comment below with your own recommendations. Why not get involved with the WEAll Read book group, which is holding monthly meetings? Find out more here.

Alphabetically by author:

  1. An Economy of Wellbeing: Mark Anielski
  2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Ha-Joon Chang
  3. Change Everything: Christian Felber
  4. Wellbeing Economy: Lorenzo Fioramonti
  5. The Divide: Jason Hickel
  6. New Economy Business: Margo Hoek
  7. The Age of Thrivability: Michelle Holliday
  8. Prosperity Without Growth: Tim Jackson
  9. The High Price of Materialism: Tim Kasser
  10. A Finer Future: Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, John Fullerton and Anders Wijkman
  11. Economics Unmasked: Manfred Max-Neef
  12. Local Is Our Future: Helena Norberg-Hodge
  13. The Value of Nothing: Raj Patel
  14. The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
  15. Doughnut Economics: Kate Raworth
  16. What Money Can’t Buy: Michael J. Sandel
  17. Small is Beautiful: E.F. Schumacher
  18. Local Dollars Local Sense: Michael Shuman
  19. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: John Thackara
  20. The Economics of Arrival: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams