There has never been so many ways you can organise your finances to align with your values and the Global Goals (the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short), established by the UN, for a more sustainable world.
Here are some ways to meet each of the #UNSDGs with your own cash.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
#1 – No poverty. If you want your savings to help other people who need financial support, consider saving with a credit union. They offer affordable and fair loans to people in the local community, so you know you are helping people in your area, too. A new pilot scheme called “PrizeSaver” has just launched at some credit unions, which gives savers a chance to win up to £5,000 a month.
#2 – Zero hunger. Use a food sharing app to prevent waste and also save £s. Olio lets you take pictures of food you can’t use, post them to the app then wait for someone local to come and pick it up. You can pick up food your neighbours can’t use, too. And don’t forget to donate to food banks, particularly in the run up to winter and school holidays. The Trussell Trust has a list of food banks near you.
#3 – Good health and wellbeing. Start with your own. If you want to work on your own good health and wellbeing, then looking at private health insurance that rewards you for doing more exercise and eating well is one way to achieve this. There are a number of private health insurers set up to encourage customers to be healthier, as this makes business sense for them too. You can get reduced premiums, flight and accommodation discounts, free coffees, cinema vouchers and more.
#4 – Quality education. Teach your children about money and help them avoid money stress and debt later in life. Most children are naturally curious and receptive to money chat, once they realise it holds the key to them getting what they want in life (quite early!) Use pocket money apps like Go Henry to get them used to the idea of accumulation, saving, spending and charity giving. And buy them an age-appropriate book, like this one, about a bunny with three carrots
#5 – Gender equality – If you are female, pay into a pension, invest and save. It’s the best way to ensure you are never financially dependent on a partner, can afford to retire and will be able to free your children from worrying about you (and paying for your care) when you are old. It might not be obvious now, but looking after yourself financially plays a big part in general gender equality. Male partners can pay into their female partners’ pensions too.
#6 – Clean water and sanitation – Saving your own water use around the home can save money too. The website Save Water Save Money is packed with ideas. There are a number of investment funds that you can put in an ISA that have clean water and sanitation as their dominant theme. If you already have a stocks and shares ISA or Lifetime ISA, or would like to start one, you can do so on any big investment platform, such as AJ Bell, Interactive Investor or Charles Stanley Direct. Check first whether they have the water funds or companies you want to invest in before you sign up, though.
#7 – Affordable and clean energy – There are lots of opportunities to invest in community renewable energy schemes around the country. Websites like Ethex and Energy4All regularly list new ones. They can make a decent, long-term return, although they are often unregulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and because they are investments rather than savings accounts, they are not eligible for compensation. However, renewable energy installations, such as wind turbines and solar panels, once built, can generate a predictable revenue flow, for as long as they are making energy and selling it to the grid.
#8 – Decent work and economic growth – If you employ anyone (as many small business owners and consultants who subcontract do), pay them fairly. At least the National Living Wage (which is not the minimum wage and is voluntary), which has just gone up to £9.30 an hour for over 25s (£10.75 an hour for those in London). And if you earn enough to pay tax, then do.
#9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure – Simply, invest (if you have the spare money to do so), either directly in shares with a company or through an investment vehicle like a fund or an investment trust. But think about which companies and funds you invest in. Infrastructure-based Investment Trusts are a great way to invest in infrastructure companies, for example. And when you do invest, the longer the term of your investment, the more your money can contribute to big, costly but socially beneficial projects. Investment trusts can go in a regular stocks and shares ISA – or a Lifetime ISA. As can other funds with this focus. If you want to invest directly in medium-sized businesses in the UK, then an Innovative Finance ISA is a good way to tick the innovation SDG box. You can get these via platforms that specialise in IFISAs, rather than on mainstream investment platforms. Remember though, investments carry the risk of losing money and it may be a good idea to use a financial adviser to help match your financial circumstances to the right type of investment.
#10 – Reduced inequalities – Gender, race and background. Local co-operatives, member owned and purpose-led organisations, often focus on education and training projects for disadvantaged groups. Either investing in or giving your time to volunteer for – local co-operatives, can be a very rewarding way of helping to reduce inequalities. You can also support co-operatives by buying their products. The Traidcraft shop only sells fairtrade items.
#11 – Sustainable cities and communities – If you live in Brixton or Bristol, you have a clear ‘in’ here: use the Brixton pound or the Bristol pound. There are other local currencies around the country: Hull, Totnes and Liverpool are also among them. If you are doing an eco-renovation or would like to support those that do, some building societies specialise in lending to green home development. Investing in solar panels, once you’ve made back from the panels what you paid for them, are a great way to generate clean energy and a bit of revenue by selling electricity you don’t use back to the grid (as are other forms of domestic renewable energy installations, like ground source heatpumps and biomass boilers). Considering a fully electric, plug in or self-charging hybrid for your next car is another way to save on the cost of fuel and stop fumes entering the air around where you live.
#12 – Responsible consumption and production – Buy locally produced food and goods, wherever possible. Farm shops are great – as are zero waste stores, now popping up everywhere. Find your local zero waste store here
#13 – Climate Action – Fly less, buy less, recycle more – and consider moving your pension into the sustainable option offered by your provider.
#14 – Life below water – Eat less fish. Cutting fish out from your diet can save you money too. If you do eat fish, make it sustainable.
#15 – Life on land – Eat less meat. Meat is also an increasingly expensive addition to your diet. Cutting it down – if not out – will be good for your wallet as well as the planet (and your health).
#16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions – Pay your taxes! It’s worth a reminder that the purpose of paying tax is to create a society and an economy that we can all thrive in. How our taxes are spent, what we are taxed on and how much are all up for debate, but the payment of tax is a socially beneficial thing to do and avoiding paying it isn’t. Equally – take up any benefits on offer to you by the Government and don’t feel bad about doing so if you are eligible.
#17 – Partnerships for the goals – share what you learn. Talk to your family and friends about ways you are changing your saving and spending to become more sustainable in general.