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What is effective altruism?

What is effective altruism?

If you’ve followed the GoSquared Blog for a while, you’ll have noticed recently we’ve been writing a lot more about sustainability and the climate.

As a team, we all care about the climate. Seeing the planet survive and thrive for future generations is a cause we find it hard to ignore.

We all feel strongly about this, but until recently, we naively didn’t think we could do much about it.

In fact, the more we’ve been learning about the climate, the more we’re realising how much more we all need to do — from making small changes in our daily routines, to building more climate conscious businesses.

So we’ve been doing a number of things to grow our awareness and understanding, to share, and to build a better business:

  • We’ve started a sustainability section on our blog
  • We’ve started a newsletter focused on covering the the intersection of digital marketing and climate
  • We’ve planted over a thousand trees
  • We’ve started a new product — EcoSend — the first and only climate conscious email marketing software.

Sharing what we learn

“Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other.” — William Zinser

One of the things we’ve found at GoSquared is to share what we learn at every step of the day. It helps others but it also helps us ensure we understand what we’re learning. In fact, since 2007 it’s exactly what we’ve done on this blog.

So when it comes to the environment, and having a positive impact on climate, we are learning as fast as we can. Part of that learning is to share — by sharing we are clarifying our thinking and highlighting areas we are strong and weak. We are learning about the topic more deeply and more concretely by writing posts just like this.

In terms of having the maximum impact on climate, we stumbled upon a topic that caught our eye: Effective Altruism.

Learning about effective altruism

Several years ago James Gill (co-founder and CEO of GoSquared) signed up for Founders Pledge, an organisation that encourages business founders to give a portion of the value they generate to altruistic causes.

Founders Pledge have been proponents of effective altruism since they started, and it’s where we first came across the term.

To summarise, effective altruism is about having the maximum positive impact with the resources you have.

Effective altruism emphasises being impartial with choosing the causes to focus on, a well reasoned prioritisation of causes, and maximising the cost-effectiveness of different solutions to problems that exist.

Get started with effective altruism: Ask the right questions

While it may sound complicated and scientific, you can start on your journey to effective altruism by asking some very basic questions — things like:

  • How can we do more “good” with the resources we currently have?
  • How can I make the maximum impact with where I channel my efforts?
  • How can we all have a bigger impact by collectively doing good things better?

Examples of people taking action within effective altruism

While at GoSquared, we’re particularly passionate about climate-related causes, effective altruism forces one to zoom out and look at all of the areas you can have a positive impact on others.

A few key cause areas include:

Global health and development

People focused on global health and development are aiming to improve the lives of as many people as possible — regardless of where they live. Often, a high impact approach (most effectively altruistic) is to influence policy change at a government level to have lasting, wide reaching improvements.

Improving animal welfare

From factory farming, to many wild animals facing possible extinction, animal welfare is a large area of focus for many in the effective altruism community. Organisations focused on improving animal welfare are working on alternatives to meat, improving policy around factory farming, and driving improvements to animal welfare.

Safeguarding the long-term future

People interested in this area are working on reducing existential risks — things that risk the long term future of the planet and the livelihoods of future generations. This includes areas such as preventing pandemics, mitigating climate change, promoting beneficial AI (this might surprise some), and reducing nuclear threats.

Advocate for effective altruism

While effective altruism is still a relatively small movement, those in it are keen to drive more awareness — more people being more effective can only be a good thing!

There are several communities worth exploring to learn more about effective altruism, including:

We hope you have enjoyed the post and learnt as much from reading it as we have from writing it. If you’re interested to learn more, let us know. We’d love to hear about your journey building a better business of your own.

Written by
James is CEO and one of the co-founders of GoSquared. He also likes to talk about design.

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