Actions for a better economy

The Sustainable Development Goals take us to economies that serve people while preserving the planet. Governments steer economies as a whole. But millions of individual actions count too. Act for a better economy next time you make a purchase, cast a vote or even perform a household task.

Choose your issue. Make an impact.

Donate to charities

From food banks to job training, many organizations exist to help people move past difficulties that otherwise trap them in poverty. Choose your cause and give generously. You can donate money as well as time, clothes, books, food or other essentials. While worldwide philanthropy amounted to $550 billion in 2022, that’s still only a tiny share of the global economy. Charity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Helping each other out – definitely a trend to continue.

Mentor young people

A good mentor who shares experiences or stops to listen can change lives for the better. Spend a couple hours a week or month mentoring your peers – or someone younger. Mentoring offers many benefits, helping people to gain knowledge and self-confidence, and set goals. It can be a gamechanger for young people crossing into adulthood and wrestling with major choices, such as where to work and when to start a family.

Advocate for better work

Become a union member, create a union, cast a vote, advocate for equal pay for equal work, or join a movement for economic justice – the options are many to take a stand for better work. Jobs with low pay and poor conditions are the norm for over half the workers in the world. Instead of gaining a better life, and despite their efforts, people end up trapped in poverty. Societies as a whole remain unequal and less productive than they could be.

Pay fair tips and wages

Your chance to step up for a better economy comes the next time you tip or pay someone to perform a task. Everyone should have a living wage, so don’t skimp. Wealth inequality has reached epic levels, with the richest 10 per cent of the global population owning 76 per cent of global wealth. The bottom 50 per cent gets owns 2 per cent. Don’t worry if you aren’t a billionaire – every bit counts towards more fair and inclusive economies.

Buy from employee-friendly businesses

Most people work in the private sector, for firms large and small. Employers are where decent labour practices begin, like paying men and women equally, or providing adequate paid leave. Think about the businesses you patronize. If you can, speak with people who work there – or check for websites where employees rate employers. Ask if businesses have made a public commitment to fair labour standards – and acted on it. Buy goods and services from those that can demonstrate decent treatment.

Purchase fair-trade products

Know where goods come from and how they are produced, and make buying choices accordingly. Different forms of fair-trade certification help guarantee that production happens without exploiting workers or destroying the environment. Through fair trade, you can help send resources to people in poorer countries, lending support to a more inclusive global economy.

Green your tourism

Now that tourism is booming after the pandemic, choose options that apply sustainability standards, such as to protect ecosystems and minimize waste. Look for trips where local communities gain economic benefits while conserving nature and safeguarding cultural sites. You won’t be alone; over two thirds of travellers now say they want to see the world sustainably. Ecotourism globally has become a billion-dollar business.

Join the circular economy

Reuse products rather than tossing them out, and your clothes, out-of-date electronics and scrap metal can all have a new life. Reuse can reduce the extraction of natural resources and pressures on the environment from piles of garbage. Action has to happen fast. Right now, global extraction of raw materials tops 100 billion tons a year, and demand for natural resources exceeds the planet’s ability to keep up by a factor of 1.75. Only 8.6 per cent of materials consumed end up being reused.

Use green building materials

Make your home a centre of sustainability. Next time you plan a building project or even a minor repair, check the green credentials of the materials you use. Some species of wood are more sustainably harvested, for instance. Environmentally friendly products for insulation include straw, wool and even cast-off jeans. While you are at it, see where you can recycle existing materials, like refinishing a wood floor instead of replacing it. Buildings and construction create an estimated third of the world’s overall waste – plus almost 40 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Do your fair share at home

Who cleans the house, makes the meals and takes the kids to school? Women, mostly – they carry out three quarters of the world’s unpaid care work. It’s an unfair share that limits their options to pursue work or education, or even just take some time off. If you are not doing your fair share, have a conversation about who can do what and how to strike a better balance.