There’s so much attention on the upcoming election, and with good reason: our future is at stake. But it’s important to remember that political power is tied to economic power, and we vote every day for the kind of world we want to live in with every dollar we spend and every purchase we make.
We can choose to support businesses that actually make our communities more resilient rather than extracting local wealth and resources. Sometimes it costs more to support businesses that are aligned with values of social and ecological responsibility, but that’s because those prices reflect the true cost of production. When we purchase cheap consumer goods, the true cost of production is often passed on to workers and to future generations (through environmental destruction). And when we shop at chains or big-box stores, much of the money we spend leaves our community. But when we shop at local, independent businesses, our money is recycled locally and strengthens our local economies.
Certain businesses take economic transformation a step further by committing to providing good jobs and building community wealth, or to making environmental stewardship part of their business model. And some businesses do it all!
In this new report by Transition US, “25 Enterprises that Build Resilience,” we look at twenty-five businesses across the US that actually build community wealth and resilience. From innovative ecological and social justice-oriented farms and food hubs to small-scale energy companies, from bicycle-powered delivery services to alternative strategies for providing affordable housing, these business models will inspire you to reimagine and transform your local economy.
The report focuses on enterprises that aspire to meet the following criteria for resilience-building businesses developed by the Transition Network REconomy Project:
1. Appropriate localization: Enterprises operate at a scale appropriate to the environment, the needs they are meeting, and their business sector, with regard to sourcing, distribution, and interaction with the wider economy. They don’t all have to grow endlessly. They provide local goods for local people as locally as possible, where this makes sense.
2. Appropriate resource use: Enterprises make efficient and appropriate use of natural resources, respecting finite limits and minimizing and integrating waste streams. The use of fossil fuels is minimized, and use of renewable energy sources maximized.
3. Serve a purpose greater than profit: Enterprises aim to provide affordable, sustainable products and services and decent livelihoods, rather than just generate excessive profits for others. Enterprises can be profitable, but excess profits are used for wider benefit rather than just enriching individuals.
4. Part of the community: Enterprises work toward building a common wealth, owned and controlled as much as is practical by their workers, customers, tenants and communities. They treat and pay all workers fairly. Their structures are as open, equitable, democratic, inclusive and accountable as possible. They consciously operate as part of a collaborative and mutually supportive local system.
5. Strengthen community resilience: Enterprises help ensure the main needs of the community are met despite wider economic instability, energy and resource shortages and global warming impacts. Enterprises are also resilient in themselves, seeking to be financially sustainable and as independent of external funding as possible.
In addition to the 25 enterprises—nominated by Transitioners and community resilience-builders across the country and reviewed by a team of experts—the report is full of additional resources to help you deepen your knowledge of local economic transformation and give you the tools to get started. Enjoy!
Learn more about the Transition US REconomy Project and opportunities to get involved here.
Photos (from top): Soul Fire Farm, Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative, Pedal People.