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Making a difference with your wallet this festive season

Pay it forward with gift ideas that will delight your loved ones and do some good for the world.

5 min read

As the festive season comes upon us, our thoughts often turn to gift-giving and the joy it brings. But this year, why not consider an approach that not only brings joy to loved ones but also positively impacts the world around you? Here, we explore how festive spending can be both meaningful and beneficial.

Supporting small and medium-sized businesses

Making up 90% of all businesses​​, small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the global economy. Yet, the past few years have been particularly challenging for smaller companies globally. In the EU, the pandemic, economic uncertainties, and inflation have all impacted smaller shops and local businesses — but despite the challenges, they’ve shown resilience. In 2022, in terms of value added to the economy, European small businesses grew by 6.7% in current prices.

Smaller businesses are often favored for their unique approach to products and customer service. They usually offer handcrafted and local items — not just products, but stories imbued with personal touches, making each gift special and memorable. This uniqueness stems from their dedication to or appreciation of craftsmanship and attention to detail, which sets them apart from mass-produced items. Alongside their product offerings, small businesses are often known for their personalized customer service. They typically go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction, which can make shopping a genuinely heartwarming and memorable experience.

All this adds up to a meaningful way to give back. Supporting small businesses during the festive season isn’t just about finding the perfect gift; it's about investing in the economic and cultural fabric of our communities. By buying from small and medium-sized brands, you consciously decide to contribute to local communities and cultural preservation. The money spent in local businesses often stays within the community, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone and helps create jobs, fund local services, and contribute to the overall health of the local economy.

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Sustainable gift giving

As awareness of climate change grows, there's been a significant shift towards sustainable gift-giving​​​​. Opting for eco-friendly gifts means choosing products with a minimal environmental footprint, such as those made from recycled materials or those contributing less to waste. This approach benefits the planet and encourages manufacturers to adopt more sustainable practices.

The gifting industry significantly contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions, with the bulk of gifts each year eventually becoming waste, including wrapping materials​​. For instance, consumer spending accounts for over a quarter of all UK emissions, making it the largest contributor to the country's greenhouse gas emissions​​. Buying sustainable gifts goes beyond selecting environmentally friendly products; it's also about understanding and mitigating the broader environmental impact of our consumer habits.

Interestingly, the recent surge in energy prices and the broader economic uncertainty have prompted many consumers to adopt sustainable lifestyles as a cost-saving measure. Even if this shift is driven partly by economic concerns, it contributes to a larger pattern of environmental awareness​​. Additionally, about a quarter of consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainability, indicating that eco-friendly products and practices could truly be catching on​​.

Charitable contributions: Gifts that keep on giving

Donating in someone's name transcends material giving. It symbolizes care, empathy, and a shared commitment to positively impacting lives. It's also a deeply personal and significant choice, especially when the donation aligns with the recipient's passions and beliefs. 

Opting for charitable contributions as gifts cultivates a culture of generosity and social awareness. This approach can be particularly educational for young recipients, teaching them the value of altruism and social responsibility. And just maybe, such acts of giving can inspire others to embrace non-material ways of expressing affection and appreciation.

Alternatively, choosing gifts from brands that donate a portion of their profits to charitable causes can also create a positive impact. This practice benefits the recipient, supports larger causes, and promotes business models that prioritize social and ethical responsibility. The satisfaction is twofold: giving a thoughtful gift and contributing to a meaningful cause.

The rise of experience-based gifts

The trend of gifting experiences rather than material items has gained significant traction in recent years. First popularized by companies like Red Letter Days, these gifts focus on creating unforgettable memories. Unlike material gifts that may lose their charm over time, experiences help individuals break out of their routines and create lasting memories​​.

Research suggests that experiential gifts contribute more to personal happiness than material possessions, fostering social connections and shared joy. A University of Toronto study found that experiential gifts are more socially connective than material gifts, because a shared experience strengthens relationships​​. This trend is also driven by increasing environmental consciousness, as experience-based gifts typically involve less material waste and are more sustainable.

Experience-based gifting has another added benefit: supporting local businesses, particularly those impacted by the pandemic. By choosing local experiences, consumers contribute to the local economy and to community rebuilding​​. This support is crucial for small businesses and local artisans, who often rely on community patronage for their survival and growth.

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