Bristol launches the ethical pound.

The Bristol Pound launched yesterday and marks a significant step forward in the war between local and corporate trading.

This unique currency can only be used in Bristol and in local businesses, so excluding the big corporates.  The idea is to keep the “cash in the community”.  The scheme also encourages traders to buy their supplies locally, which keeps the money going around.

Over 350 businesses have already signed up and even the local council are accepting them.

It’s not the first of its kind, Brixton, Totnes, Lewes and Stroud have their own local pounds and a German currency called the Chiemgauer operates in Bavaria. In the US, Massachusetts has the BerkShare.

But unlike these currencies, the Bristol Pound has online and mobile payments. And all transaction are handled by Bristol Credit Union, a regulated and ethical financial services provider.

The significance of this is the growing trend towards local and the rejection of corporate. For many years now we have had the complaint of corporates taking over our high streets to the point where every one looks the same.

When I went to Krakow in Poland 3 years ago I walked out of the hotel through an old arch only to find myself in a street with exactly the same shops in as Covent Garden.

Brands like Starbucks, as loved as they are, are often cited as an example of corporate America taking over our high streets. Of course, what is often ignored is the fact that Starbucks uses local builders and materials, employs local people at a decent wage, runs local book schemes, supports local artists and funds community projects, which many independent coffee shops don’t do. Oh, and they sell real Fairtrade coffee too.

Ironically the biggest threat to local businesses is actually not corporate brands but local councils, who are driving people out through excessive parking charges.

I wonder if you can pay your parking fine in Bristol with the Bristol pound?