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Talking about a clean money revolution

3 July 2019 at 8:45 am
Wendy Williams
A clean money revolution is not only required – it’s well underway, says self-described “financial activist” Joel Solomon.

Wendy Williams | 3 July 2019 at 8:45 am


Talking about a clean money revolution
3 July 2019 at 8:45 am

A clean money revolution is not only required – it’s well underway, says self-described “financial activist” Joel Solomon.

The Canadian-based author, impact investor and mission venture capitalist, defines clean money as money that does less harm and more good. 

He was recently in Australia to inspire people to join the revolution, an idea he laid out in his 2017 book, The Clean Money Revolution.

He told Pro Bono News that we have a moral imperative to understand what our money is doing, what the alternatives are, and to make better choices so our money is aligned with what we believe. 

“There are urgencies that are so serious now. We have the power to do a lot of destruction and damage. And humanity hasn’t fully matured in its spiritual evolution to handle all of that wisely and brilliantly for the long-term well-being of everybody,” Solomon says.

“I was born when the population was under 3 billion. It’s pushing 8 billion now and it will probably keep going. We are taxing all of the systems that keep us going. We are wasting too much and we are doing too much toxicity and damage at the same time. 

“Things are distorted and out of whack.”

The Clean Money Revolution calls for the reinvention of power, purpose and capitalism that will generate the “biggest money making opportunity in history”.

Solomon, who is also a founding partner of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest mission venture capital firm, says: “Now more than ever, citizens are critically evaluating if their money – whether through super funds, bank accounts or insurers – is supporting causes that do good rather than harm.”

His latest trip to Australia, comes after he acted as the voice of Bank Australia’s clean money campaign earlier this year, challenging Australians to ask whether their money was with a bank supporting positive change. 

Fiona Nixon, head of strategy and communications at Bank Australia who supported Solomon on his June tour, said they were committed to working with Australians to understand that their finances can have positive impacts from a cultural, economic, environmental and social standpoint.

“The balance of trust is shifting away from governments and people are now looking to businesses to take a lead role in creating a fairer, more sustainable economy. Alongside Joel, we want to equip progressive Australians with the knowledge and tools to align their money with their values,” said Nixon.

Solomon believes the time is ripe for change, pointing to the generational transfer of wealth set to occur in the next 10 years. 

“Australian millennials are set to inherit $3 trillion previously held by boomers in the next decade. That is a huge shift of power, and if harnessed correctly, it can be mobilised into an incredibly impactful, peer-driven movement,” he says.

He sees impact investing as a movement for millennials, who have had more access to information and more exposure to new ideas that any generation before them.

“They’re also exposed to the challenges of the world to such a degree that some of them are facing depression and discouragement and disenchantment, and others are wanting to be proactive,” he says.

He believes millennials are an excellent source for clean money if cared for and if the relationships can be seeded. 

“It’s not the technical details or the perfection of the idea. People want to invest with people that they feel good about, that they enjoy being with, that they learn from. And so being sensitive about those things and being gardeners of the ecosystem, convening people and having them get to know each other in real relationships, those things make a big difference,” he says.

“They can move mountains.”

Someone holding a copy of The Clean Money Revolution

Solomon points to impact investing more broadly as an area of huge opportunity, when you consider that business is a tool not an end.

“And that tool can be used with any different set of values with all kinds of different goals,” he says.

But he stresses that for money to have different values attached to it, you have to learn how it works, what the principles are, where it is, and how people respond to it. You also have to learn to create the right kinds of organisations and tools. 

Today, business guides most of what governments around the world do, because it has learned how government works and learns how to influence it for its own benefit. 

“My premise would be that the impact investment world is the next evolution of business that is starting with values and long-term vision, meaning and purpose, rather than sheer drive to accumulate as much as possible for the individual,” he says.

In order to grow the space, there are a number of factors that are required for long-term change of perspective. 

One is around consolidating and connecting the sector. The second is building proof of concept.

He says when you can show that being ethical will also make equal or better money, “that starts to be an unfair advantage for the do gooders”.

That is how you can bring people into the revolution. 

Solomon says he got to sit at the knees of some of the early entrepreneurs, which went on to become large companies. 

When you can show that being ethical will also make equal or better money, that starts to be an unfair advantage for the do gooders.

He recalls a conference 30 years ago, where he walked by a table and saw a lot of his friends intently listening to a man talking about nontoxic toilet paper. 

“Just soak that imagery in for a minute. Toxicity on your toilet paper. Non-toxic household products, dish suds. What? What’s wrong with my dish suds? Shampoo. Oh, look at the ingredients. What is that stuff? Oh, it matters,” he says.

“Well, I walked by that table and I saw who was there. And I listened for a few minutes. And I committed $50,000 to them.”

That $50,000 multiplied when the company, Seventh Generation, sold for hundreds of millions of dollars to Unilever.

But it took decades to reach that point.

“They worked hard for a long time to get this premise, to get people to invest in them, to get a company successful, to break into the supermarket shelves. It was hard, hard labor to do that,” Solomon explains.

“But those models are everywhere now, across the landscape.”

He says there are always early adopters, who want to be first in and want to be the pioneers with their money.

While they may only be one in 100, “you don’t need more than one in a hundred if you know how to reach that one”.

From there, critical mass gets it.

“And then Jeffrey Hollender, who built Seventh Generation, has a pocketful of money. Who’s he going to invest in? Is he going to invest in the most exploitative and nastiest companies or is he going to invest in the coolest, greenest, wonderful companies? “ Solomon says.

“And so the cycle starts to build. Capital starts to go into values-based sectors.

“That takes time and hard work, you can’t just snap your fingers, but that’s how changes happen.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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