Having invested millions in ethical businesses over the course of his life, Joel Solomon compiled his hopes for the future of capitalism (and society in general) in his book, The Clean Money Revolution. Now, his mission is spreading his vision for a world fuelled by clean money as far and wide as he possibly can.
“If you don’t pay attention to where your money is, or where your products come from, you are participating in a lot of really damaging things,” says Joel Solomon. “None of us want that.”
Joel is speaking to us before a book signing at Progress 2019 in Melbourne. As the author of The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose and Capitalism and an impact investor himself, he now spends a lot of his time sharing his ideas with the world. He’s visiting Australia from Canada just to attend this event.
There’s a hunger for Joel’s ideas, too. In these times of environmental, ecological, societal and economic crisis, the global population has to find a better way forward. The old way is broken, the old institutions are broken, and we need to rethink almost everything we’ve been doing from the top down.
Joel is a proponent of the idea that we need to harness capitalism for good, ASAP – to move our society in a more sustainable direction.
“Think of your bank,” suggests Joel. “What’s your bank doing with that money? They don’t just stick it in a box. If you’re buying products – how are those products getting made? How do they treat their workers? What’s in the food you’re eating? What’s in the paint on your walls? What are you putting on your skin?”
Becoming more conscious of where we keep our money and how we spend it, reckons Joel, can help us “better understand the confluence between money, politics, power, and the future of civilisation.”
Think of it like this: if you don’t agree with the tobacco, mining and gambling industries on an ethical level, why would you use the services of a company who uses your money to invest in those industries? If you agree that all workers should be paid a fair wage, why would you buy products that have been made by people who aren’t? And if you think protecting the environment is important, why would you use companies that aren’t doing anything to limit their environmental impact?
“We are supporting systems and infrastructures that we might not really want to have on our track record,” adds Joel. “There’s a global political, ecological, social and climate crisis – we need to be more sophisticated about that, and money is a driver on almost every one of those issues.”
Instead of feeling guilty about where our money has been up to now, Joel’s message (and book) is designed to inspire action. It’s on us as individuals to change our habits, and the easiest ways to do that today are divesting your money from organisations who don’t match your ethics, being more aware of the products you buy and the companies you use, and finding better products/companies. Because the more we use these more progressively-minded companies, the bigger and more available they’ll become – supply and demand.
While many see business and capitalism as the enemy, Joel doesn’t believe either of these things are inherently bad, and can in fact be forces for extreme good – we just need to change the way we do business, and make capitalism work for people, and the planet, instead of the other way around. “You can’t ignore business – we just need to bring progressive values to it,” says Joel.
Beyond the individual, Joel also believes it’s the responsibility of businesses and entrepreneurs to step up to the plate and offer some tangible and sustainable alternatives. “Companies have a moral responsibility,” says Joel. “They’re powerful and they have to take care of things. And it’s happening – we’re seeing a flood of entrepreneurs who are committed to fixing these issues – they’re the entrepreneurs of the future.”
A long-time investor in ethical business who’s invested millions into companies and entrepreneurs that he believes can change the world for good, Joel is certainly no stranger to putting his money where his mouth is.
But he also believes it’s not enough for companies to just be good, they have to make it easy for the general public to engage with them and use their services. They need to be accessible to everyone. “There’s inertia to deal with,” says Joel. “Life isn’t simple – it’s busy. And its human nature we’re dealing with – so how do we make it easier for the mass market? You need to speak in simple terms. You need to touch the emotions. You need to provide a good service and have a good business proposition – that combination wins.”
While big business can step up in lieu of government action, governments, too, have an enormous role to play in ushering in a new wave of capitalism. And, says Joel, we need more government regulations on business. “What we more commonly find, since government is so reliant on the support of big business though campaign donations etc, is governments reducing regulations on big businesses in a desperate bid to curry favour.”
The good news is that the more progressive businesses and entrepreneurs keep popping up, the more pressure governments will feel to get their act together. “You’re going to need business voices that will call for that,” says Joel. “The incumbent businesses, who don’t really care about anything other than making money as fast as possible, that’s where the real problem is. But the people who are in business to change the world will have a good influence on government and policy.”
The issues we’re facing as a species might be complex, sprawling, intertwined and enormous, but the changes we need to make to help us tackle those issues are much smaller and simpler to grasp. The difficulty comes in making sure we can make those changes at scale, en masse, and quickly. For Joel, it’s about channelling an earlier version of humanity and applying it to our modern-day issues.
“We are in serious, serious trouble,” reminds Joel. “It’s easy to not want to face that. But we need to step up and realise that our very purpose in life is to help in times like these. We need to re-indigenise, re-feminise and re-inclusive the entire economy if we’re going to have a chance. There are ways to be conscious and make intentional choices – we need to do those things now.”