Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 277–292 | Cite as

Money and the Commons: An Investigation of Complementary Currencies and Their Ethical Implications

  • Camille MeyerEmail author
  • Marek Hudon
Original Paper


The commons is a concept increasingly used with the promise of creating new collective wealth. In the aftermath of the economic and financial crises, finance and money have been criticized and redesigned to serve the collective interest. In this article, we analyze three types of complementary currency (CC) systems: community currencies, inter-enterprise currencies, and cryptocurrencies. We investigate whether these systems can be considered as commons. To address this question, we use two main theoretical frameworks that are usually separate: the “new commons” in organization studies and the “common good” in business ethics. Our findings show that these monetary systems and organizations may be considered as commons under the “common good” framework since they promote the common interest by creating new communities. Nevertheless, according to the “new commons” framework, only systems relying on collective action and self-management can be said to form commons. This allows us to suggest two new categories of commons: the “social commons,” which fit into both the “new commons” and the “common good” frameworks, and the “commercial commons,” which fit the “common good” but not the “new commons” framework. This research advances a new conceptualization of the commons and of the ethical implications of CCs.


Common good Commons Complementary currencies Community currencies Cryptocurrencies Ethics in finance 



We thank Ester Barinaga, Tina Dacin, Tom Dedeurwaerere, Sandrine Frémeaux, Georgina Gomez, Helen Haugh, Marc Labie, Frédéric Louault, Hugues Pirotte, Jean-Michel Servet, Alejo Sison, Ariane Szafarz, Annabel Vanroose and Monika Winn for the comments they provided for improving this article. Some funding for the article preparation was provided by the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation under a donation from Goldcorp Inc.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Victoria, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, Centre for Social and Sustainable InnovationVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Université Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.CEBBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Centre for European Research in Microfinance (CERMi)BrusselsBelgium

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