Cities / Newsletter of 1 Mars 2019

Complementary currencies: a lever for circular and local economy

Since 2010, about forty local currencies have appeared and are legally in circulation in France. They are a way for residents to face the various financial crises while developing local production and businesses at the scale of their neighbourhood, city or region.

These complementary local currencies governed by the 2014 French Law on the Social and Solidarity Economy constitute a lever for local, more eco-friendly and therefore more sustainable consumption (according to ADEME). These currencies work the same way as traditional currencies, but can take on different shapes: in Switzerland, the WIR is only used in transactions between businesses, whereas in Nantes, the SoNantes is a 100% digital currency which residents can use to pay local businesses.

In France, local currencies are set up by associations. Although their value is directly indexed on the Euro, they are not legal tender, and are therefore not subject to speculation. The Euros exchanged against local currency are stored in an ethical bank such as the NEF or Crédit coopératif. The specificity and interest of having these currencies is that they may only be used at businesses in a specific neighbourhood, city or region. The money flow rate is therefore multiplied, which benefits the entire community and guides residents towards more virtuous consumption habits.

“Green” currencies, such as the Grain in the region of Le Havre, only include socially and environmentally resonsible businesses with no link to industrial agriculture. In the city of Brest, the Heol supports low-pollution local businesses.

The local currencies developing throughout the world (about 5,000 initiatives worldwide) are presented as a democratic and participatory experience and enable residents to take ownership of the economy to make it more humane.


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