Environmentalism? Crowdfunding is the way to go

Barry Sheerman MP

The cost of living crisis has worrying consequences which reach beyond finding enough money to put food on the table, pay energy bills, and keep up with the mortgage or rent. More seemingly remote political concerns such as environmentalism suffer when families are struggling to keep up with everyday necessities. I have to confess that when I ask my constituents in Huddersfield what their political priorities are, very few mention looking after the environment, and most of those that do are students. In more pessimistic moments, I worry that environmentalism belongs with ‘Making Poverty History’ as a policy only for the boom times.

This apparent lack of traction with voters explains why the Conservatives have quietly and cravenly dropped their attempts to ‘go green’, which now look as hollow as their ill-fated ‘big society’ project. It also explains why Labour has been emphasising its policy of freezing energy bills rather than its commitment to green policies.

However, I think all three political parties are missing an opportunity. As forthcoming Fabian Society research shows, people do care about the environment when they think locally and when they connect it to other important aspects of their lives, such as their friends and relatives, their house and home, the money in their wallet and their chances of getting a decent job or education.

My own experience as a social entrepreneur suggests that we are on the cusp of a whole new world of political activity made possible by social media and new digital technologies. Just last week I had 10 people at my constituency advice service urging me to oppose an aspect of the Lobbying Bill that touches on the charity sector. Before they entered my office they had never met, but were brought together by the online campaigning of 38 Degrees.

At a time when membership of political parties is so low, people are forming fresh communities and groups online, which can be very effective activist organisations. Twitter, Facebook and all the rest make it easier for people to get their views across and take action. From effectively opposing provisions of the Lobbying Bill to toppling corrupt governments in places like Egypt and Tunisia, we have seen the incredible effect that these new forms of communication can have. There is a real opportunity for the environmental movement to take.

After radically altering communication, retail, journalism and much else besides, I believe the next sector be overturned by the internet is finance. In a recent meeting with Ann-Marie Huby, the founder of Just Giving, she told me of the massive switch in charitable giving towards donations made through mobile phones. This makes it even easier to donate to important causes, including environmental causes.

I have become deeply involved in the crowdfunding movement, partly because crowdfunding is a brilliant and innovative way to support local and environmental projects. Crowdfunding platforms such as Crowdcube, Crowdpatch, Trillion Fund, and many more give us the opportunity to identify projects and organise effectively at the local level, and to raise considerable amounts though investments from ordinary people. Eventually crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms should make it possible for every citizen to have a portfolio of investments, and because people are not only motivated by high financial returns and do care about their local environment, this could be an enormous boon to local green projects.

We are on the cusp of a new revolution in social and political communications and activity. And it gives every one of us in the environmental sector a great opportunity to support the causes we care about, even when political attention lies elsewhere.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of the Fabian Review.


  1. fabiàn

    In the South Atlantic England is searcher oil and in Antartica are very natural resources . The pollution in the area will be a lot . So many wales and other maritime species will died cause of this actions . They are a lot of vessels searching fish in Argentina coast coming from malvinas . Argentina governement doesnt care their natural resources because they have send to make patrol vessels to Chile but the budget is not good and they had canceled the supplies of vessels from there . In Argentina exist a enviromental problem very big with England actions there and i think the ONU has showed their failures one and one againt time over the issue . Politics as Macri here want make bussines with England and is not matter the climate change to them .The fact is as well that the gains of that crime against the area is going to the pockets of the richs in UK . I have not hope about internet because bloggers from the corporations as CNN,BBC,etc. and from the diferents governments are in with deep pourposes .

  2. Paolo Sanviti

    Sustainable development (Brundtland Commission – “Our Common Future”) and ecological economics are strategies and programs for good humanity evolution and Earth life. The nations that understand this truth will have good plans and policies for citizens.

  3. Jon

    I tend to agree with your statements but, unfortunately, have a different conclusion.

    The process of inclusion is evolving and organisations are (eventually) evolving to take advantage of ‘electronic media’.

    Contributing will become less general and more specific. People will choose very narrowly defined areas to benefit.

    From this (as can be seen in local areas) Benefits and Welfare will be pushed to the rear of the queue behind NIMBY issues, at least for those able to contribute.

    Whilst our Party markets itself as ‘of the people’ it will become even more of the ‘educated professional caste’ and less of the people it was created to include.


    Ref – our local Party concentrates on cycling, busses (into middle class enclaves) and preventing the horror of a Tesco Local. Not many elderly people are able to cycle (we live in an area with a higher than average age). Does it really disadvantage people if 90% empty busses run hourly not every 30 minutes? Of course most can travel to ‘unsightly’ supermarkets leaving thoes who are unable to do so at the mercy of convenience pricing. Just the past few weeks of local experience.

    BTW. You are listed on wiki as Shadow Minister for the Disabled.

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