This article should not be construed as financial advice. You should work with your own financial professional to determine the strategies that are right for you and your financial situation.

The choices you make with your money can change the world. As a consumer, you vote with your dollars every time you make a purchase. As an investor, you have even more power to bring about meaningful change.

Investing gives ordinary people a megaphone to make their views heard in high places. It also gives ethical businesses the tools they need to expand and make a bigger impact. Intrigued? Here are a few of the ways that investing can change the world for the better.

1. Greening the Globe

Climate change is already a reality, regardless of what the deniers say. The good news is that with the right funding and careful planning, there’s still time to reverse the worst impact of carbon emissions on our planet. That’s where conscious investment can really make a difference.

Green investment is an umbrella term that covers just about every type of investing that can benefit the environment. For example, it can mean investment in research and development, businesses that purify water, and wind farms.

Green investment funds the scientists who are coming up with innovative solutions to solve the climate crisis. It gives them the resources they need to explore alternative energy solutions, find creative uses for marine trash, or make plastic out of olive pits. In the long run, these are the kinds of innovations that will make a difference in the world.

More immediately, green investment also rewards the companies that act ethically. When you invest in green bonds, or in businesses that follow sustainable production practices, you help to green the globe in a few ways at once. First, you’re letting the world know your views about the environment. You’re offering a ringing endorsement of sustainable practices.

And second, you’re giving ethical businesses the funding they need to grow, expand, and continue their responsible practices on a larger scale. It’s a virtuous cycle.

2. Building Tomorrow’s Leaders

Achieving lasting change means having strong and capable leaders. The right leaders have helped to topple apartheid regimes, feed and nurse the indigent, and lead independence movements — just to name a few.

But leaders don’t just spring up fully formed out of the earth. They need to be nurtured and educated. And that’s where the right investments can pay off. Investment from ordinary people can help to train tomorrow’s leaders. It can also make sure that the people of the world are being given opportunities on an equal basis, without one group being favored over another.

This is something you can consider whenever you think of investing in a business. It’s part of your due diligence, just like checking into whether the company follows sustainable production practices. Check to see whether it has an in-house leadership training program so that employees who come in as entry-level staff can have the potential to rise in the ranks.

You can also invest in mentorship programs for young kids and teenagers, or in global funds to identify the leaders of tomorrow.

3. Spreading New Ideas

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” Mark Twain once supposedly said. Indeed, education is a rich and complex field. It’s also one of the areas that can most obviously benefit from investment.

Education is strongly correlated with wealth, on the individual and national levels. The more educated a country’s population is, the more advanced forms of labor the people can carry out — and this, in turn, leads to greater wealth.

This plays out on an individual level too, of course. Investing can spur on educational programs in developing countries, poor districts of the United States, or even businesses. This kind of investment can also ensure that girls and minorities get equal access to education.

But there’s more to education than simple money-making. Investing in education also means funding for libraries, access to the internet, and free online college courses. These are the kinds of investments that can fuel a culture of lifelong learning — which, in the big picture, creates a world that’s rich in inspiration and ideas, instead of simply in money. Talk about changing the world!

4. Boosting Diversity and Inclusion

There are plenty of obvious benefits to increasing diversity in the workplace.

It’s common to think about how this will benefit women and minority groups that historically have been excluded from different opportunities. Yes, inclusivity is a huge boon to underrepresented groups. But increasing diversity and access leads to even bigger benefits for society at large.

Making sure that businesses and governments have representatives from different groups is a great way to make sure that society benefits from all kinds of different ideas and approaches. An exclusionary society, on the other hand, is almost certainly going to slowly implode.

How can investment boost diversity? Put your money into businesses that promote inclusivity. Look at companies’ boards of directors and C-level executives before you buy stocks. Beyond this, you can invest in funds that back minority-owned businesses or support female-owned enterprises.

5. Changing Cycles of Wealth in Communities

People used to say, “Think global, act local.” (Or the ever-popular twist on that, “Think global, drink local.”) If you’re wondering what that looks like in investment terms, just take a walk around your own neighborhood. One of the best ways to build the kind of world you want is to invest in local businesses.

If you love the bike repair shop on your corner that provides job training to at-risk youth, maybe you want to consider investing in it. If you’re a huge fan of the local pizza place that gives away leftover pies to the hungry, that’s a good bet for investment too.

Obviously, your local investments don’t have to be charitable enterprises. Just keep your eyes peeled for the types of local stores and restaurants you want to support. Think about the kind of neighborhood you’d like to live in, and support the places that are living up to your expectations.

Another way to express this idea is that when you invest in local businesses, you are quite literally changing the cycle of wealth in your community. You’re taking value and putting it into the hands of the people who you trust to use it well.

SMBX’s Small Business Bonds™ are a new way to invest in the local small businesses that matter to you. Investing locally like this can create cycles of wealth in your community, empowering both investors from the grass roots on up as well as the small businesses you’re investing in. It’s a great way to make your voice heard and strengthen what matters the most to you — your community.