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Money with a mission
May 11, 2012
Note: This post by New Resource President and CEO Vince Siciliano originally appeared in Sustainable Industries as part of the online magazine’s Thought Leaders series. We’re running it here as an illustration of how New Resource is extending sustainability thinking and as an example of the perspective on money as medium for driving change that we share with clients. --Editor
What is the nature of money?
That question has been answered in a wide variety of ways. The most common definition is that money is a store of value and medium of exchange. A fresh look at the question is particularly relevant now because our answers dictate our actions—not only how we spend money, but also how we run our businesses and how we can imagine using money.
I’ve written before about money as a store of values, not just value. (You can read the article here)
The economic world follows a set of rules that are sterile, without values. But money represents our stake in the economic system. It represents who we are as economic beings. We don’t have to acquiesce to this notion of money without values—we can use money as an expression of our values.
Similarly, we can use money as more than a medium of exchange—it can be a medium for change. To make this happen, we need to see money as part of a relationship between people and organizations. We need to look beyond seeing money as a means of survival (a medium of exchange) and a measure of business success: it can be a means of expanding community and driving change.
For example, RSF Social Finance (an investor in New Resource) holds pricing meetings where their investors and loan recipients listen to each others' needs and consider the impact of raising or lowering RSF’s interest rates. This helps foster a sense of community and trust, and it invigorates participants' commitment to improving the world. Money changing hands is no longer just a one-note, anonymous experience.
At New Resource, we also see our borrowers as part of our community and the provision of loan funds as the start of a deeper relationship dedicated to positive change. For instance, we give all our clients customized sustainability tool kits geared toward helping them move farther along the sustainability path. It’s part of the way we develop a relationship with our borrowers that enables us to understand, support and expand their vision and their strategy.
Another example: when the Environmental Defense Fund recognized our client Wild Planet for providing the world’s most sustainably caught seafood, our team went to work supporting Wild Planet’s infrastructure expansion and business growth. Our goal was to help Wild Planet become a leading supplier of consumer seafood, and to help it change the way seafood is caught and delivered to the marketplace.
In almost any exchange of money for a product or service, there is a connection that could be formed, then built into a community consciousness. Out of that process comes a broadening of vision that can start imbuing our otherwise dry, featureless economic activities with a sense of purpose. You get something more and you try to give something more. We begin by saying “I’m acting on my values in the way I spend my money,” and then continue to take the next steps built on relationships formed for a higher purpose. It’s about ongoing involvement that leads to a new perspective on the communal impact of our exchange of money.
Money can have a mission—and when it does, it can be a medium for change. Finance and lending can go beyond the manipulation of economic inputs and risk management to become much more: the purposeful stewardship of assets to achieve a greater good for all of us.
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