Putting Sustainability into Practice

Putting Sustainability into Practice

Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman

Putting Sustainability into Practice offers a robust and interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary consumption routines that challenges conventional approaches to social change premised on behavioral economics and social psychology. Empirical research is featured from eight different countries, using both qualitative and quantitative data to support its thesis.

Chapter 10: ‘Unleashing Local Capital’: scaling cooperative local investing practices

Mike Gismondi, Juanita Marois and Danica Straith

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


The excessive power of global finance capital and financial markets contributes to social inequality and ecological unsustainability. This challenge is being increasingly addressed at a community level, in innovative forms of cooperative investing that are widening membership and increasing the capital pool, while putting financial democracy, community well-being, the environment, and local business creation ahead of personal gain. A key question that warrants further scrutiny is, how can we imagine and enact a transition to an alternative financial ecosystem by scaling the impact of these financial social innovations? In this chapter we describe the “Unleashing Local Capital” (ULC) program, a cooperative local investment innovation designed by the Alberta Community and Cooperative Association, a community development organization based in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ULC project provides rural communities with a financial tool with which to retain local capital and invest in community businesses. We analyze the ULC team’s attempts to scale this cooperative investment model across Alberta and the challenges that were encountered. To do so, we applied a framework that is informed by both social practice theories and the multi-level perspective common in the study of socio-technical transitions. The most notable forces influencing scale include the incumbent financial structure and legislative systems and people’s habitual practices with respect to investing and borrowing. We discuss in detail the pivotal factors, such as the ways in which we commonly discuss money, concerns around transparency, the speed of the investment, cooperative practices, and perception of risk and trust.

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