Localism focuses on sustainable economic growth within a community. The goal is to conduct business to keep profits circulating through the local area. While monetary gains are still the goal of companies in this type of localized system, the ultimate aim is to increase the standard of living and quality of life for everyone within the neighborhood, district, or town.

Of course, the pursuit of this ideal gets complicated by today’s digital economy. Advances in eCommerce make it possible for businesses to have a national (or even global) reach. However, you can also use the internet to locally grow your business’s profile. It is possible to either balance online and offline operations or fully embrace localism by marketing to and engaging with people in your geographic area.

How Did Localism Start?

For most of history, localism has been the default approach to business. Before global shipping networks, people relied on local producers and retailers for most of their daily needs. However, in the late 1990s, organizations like the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), Business for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and the Food Routes Network (FRN) began trying to reintroduce this style of commerce.

The idea has spread, with communities seeking to support locally-owned businesses. The driving idea behind this movement is that successful local businesses will provide jobs for community members. Also, owners and workers are likely to spend their income at other local businesses, keeping the profits within the community and supporting other small enterprises.

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Localism can bring a better quality of life to the entire community because the money keeps circulating within the neighborhood. In addition, because people are spending locally, the success of one local company will hypothetically lead to the success of other businesses in the community. Ideally, owners will make decisions that support this model rather than adopting strategies meant to please shareholders or increase profits at all costs.

Furthermore, workers have shorter commutes, and businesses rely on brick-and-mortar operations or local delivery services, which cuts down on carbon emissions and benefits the environment. Meanwhile, the local government may see increased tax revenue due to the area’s economic activity. With this money, they may be able to improve local services and infrastructure.


Are there any drawbacks to localism? First, the concept requires that local businesses participate and that no outside companies, such as national or international corporations, come in to compete with the community enterprises.

Some enterprises may also feel limited by only relying on local customers when the internet makes it easy to reach potential buyers from around the country or the globe. However, growth beyond the community will require ignoring the tenets of localism (at least partially).

What Does It Take to Embrace Localism?

Brick-and-mortar businesses and even local eCommerce operations already have tools and strategies for engaging with the local community. For example, location-based SEO methods are well-established, and social media and an increasing number of local apps make it easier to engage with people in a specific area and build a customer base.

At In Context Inc, we understand the impact that successful local businesses can have on their communities. We are creating a series of blog posts that dive deeper into this and other related topics. You can sign up for our email list to receive this content and related announcements.