By LESLEY GREGORY
There’s only a week until Christmas, so if you don’t yet have those presents sorted, it’s time to get your act together.
I find these decisions harder as children become adults and in a society where we want for little. Like others, I’m also becoming more aware of the impact my purchases my have for people and the planet.
So, for a few years now, my Christmas gifts have included “gift cards” from Kiva, a non-profit crowdsourcing micro-business loans that can help people work their way out of poverty. Rather than give people something they really don’t want or need, the gift card allows them to support a micro-business of their choice. They get to re-lend the money when that borrower repays the loan – making it a gift that keeps on giving.
If you want to spend your gift budget ethically and sustainably this year, here are some ideas (with thanks to social impact researcher Associate Professor Danielle Logue.)
1. Give a goat
Oxfam popularised alternative gifts with its “I bought a goat for you” campaign some years back. The not-so-small print does spell out that your donation may not actually be used for a goat but “in general support of” Oxfam’s efforts. But if you’re comfortable with the goat as a “symbol” of your donation, go for it. If you’re not comfortable with that, go to Good Gifts, which guarantees “ your money buys the gift described”. These include things like a trip to the seaside for a poor child, toys for children in refugee camps and fresh fruit for African orphans.
2. Donate with the crowd
It’s estimated that $US5.5 billion a year is being generated in donation crowdfunding. This is where people use online platforms like Crowdfunder, Causes and Chuffed to raise awareness and money for causes. You might like to make a donation on behalf of a family member or friend as a Christmas gift. Some projects will appeal more than others, but community-focused projects on these sites have included things like building a rooftop garden to be tended by refugees, creating an online knowledge hub for people with disability, and teaching children in disadvantaged communities about good nutrition.
3. Support a social enterprise
Social enterprises are business ventures that operate for “purpose” not just profit. So, when you buy their goods as Christmas gifts you’re also supporting a cause. One example is Thankyou.co, which sells bottled water, body care and food products, in so doing raising millions of dollars for safe water, hygiene and food security programs. It donates 100% of its profits. Do your research, ensuring the enterprise spells out precisely how they make their donations.
4. Make a micro loan
Microfinance refers to lending small amounts of money (say $25) to individuals or groups that mainstream banking often neglects. Pioneer Grameen Bank was established to provide micro loans to rural women in Bangladesh so they could buy cows to produce and sell milk in their villages, repaying their loan with the profits. Kiva, mentioned above, is one of the bigger organisations working this way today. There’s some concern that micro-loans are also being used to fund consumption, but you can filter loans to find those you’re happy to support.
5. Spend with a B Corp
Businesses certified as B Corps have had to prove they meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance and show that they’re committed to balancing profit and purpose. So by spending your money with a B Corp you’re assured that you’re not funding practices that harm people or the planet. It’s a bit like looking for Fairtrade certification on your coffee. There are now over 2,500 Certified B Corporations in more than 50 countries.
So, if you’re stuck finding Christmas gifts for someone who has everything, look for a gift that helps someone who has nothing.
LESLEY GREGORY is an experienced personal finance and consumer journalist. If you’re interested in more of her personal finance tips, here are some more of her most recent articles:
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