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Can banks and fintech bring environmental accountability to their everyday purchasing decisions?

Environmental concerns are an increasingly important issue for people around the world. From cutting back on the amount of plastic being used to taking public transport wherever possible, there’s been a fundamental shift towards more green-conscious habits in many parts of society. Consumers have also come to expect the same standards from businesses, with 81% of people across the globe saying that it’s the responsibility of companies to help improve the environment.

As such, many people have tried to incorporate a green-first mentality into all parts of their lives – but this isn’t always easy. After all, consumers can have only so much visibility over the impact of what they spend their money on.

This has created a disconnect where huge numbers of consumers are driven by environmental concerns when making purchases but often struggle to truly understand their carbon footprint due to the opacity around certain elements of the consumer buying cycle.

This has historically put mindful customers in a difficult situation. Huge numbers of consumers want to know that the materials their favourite brands use are produced sustainably, clothing is ethically manufactured and that the supply chain that connects all these elements together has as marginal an impact on the environment as possible – but until now, the technology to elucidate these details simply hasn’t existed.

Fintech’s eco credentials

Fintech is already an innately sustainable alternative to the traditional finance sector, removing the reliance on paper statements and physical bank branches by instead allowing people to manage their finances using digital technology. That’s not to say that older financial institutions across the world aren’t already taking steps to be greener too. Banks, for example, are improving their environmental credentials by setting targets that will help them to hit their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – such as the UN Principles for sustainable Banking that will officially launch in September.

These top-down changes to focus investment on green concerns are happening alongside fundamental and innovative developments in the fintech sector. These changes are ‘opening up’ certain sectors – such as retail – and helping to improve transparency around purchases which, in turn, will make consumers more aware of their carbon footprint.

While there are already apps – such as Good on You or Giki (UK) – that can give consumers more insight into what they’re buying, the fintech sector has taken this degree of green accountability to another level. The latest Mastercard payment card from Doconomy (Sweden) helps users to track and measure the CO2 emissions associated with their purchases – enabling them to limit the climate impact of their spending through climate savings, climate compensation, sustainable investments and climate refunds from partner brands. This card which is eco-friendly, made from a sustainable plastic substitute by Gemalto – now part of Thales – is connected to a mobile app that allows users to measure their carbon footprint from every purchase.

Customers in the UK can also apply for an online and app–based current account with Triodos, a bank whose mission is to solely finance progressive entrepreneurs and organisations that are delivering positive impact for people and planet. They aim to give the wider banking sector a blueprint for how to become more transparent, diverse and sustainable. Its debit cards are also made by Gemalto, and created from an innovative, plant-based ‘natural plastic’, rounding out the bank’s green credentials.

Banks can also offer an eco-friendly payment card as part of their portfolio, which is supplied by Thales and is a personalization of the Gemalto Bio sourced card – helping to offset the carbon footprint of the six billion plastic payment cards that are made every year. Gemalto has created a full set of tools that enables its banking clients to add to their green strategy and covers every aspect of a bank card’s life from bio-sourced materials to eco-packaging.

Going green – a business case

The benefits of adopting a more environmental mindset are myriad to various parts of the buying chain. Consumers enjoy the knowledge of being able to observe and manage their carbon footprint, while manufacturers can show off their sustainability credentials and benefit from any radiant upswing in purchases – in fact, three quarters (73%) of Millennials say they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

The wider advantage, of course, is a reduction in emissions in across the supply chain – with a greater degree of accountability helping consumers to make buying choices based on a true reflection of that good’s carbon footprint and encouraging businesses to cater to this shift in consumer tastes. Innovative and evolving fintech is sitting right at the heart of this green revolution.