The role of the payments industry in saving people and planet
The 2020s has been called the ‘decisive decade’ in terms of strengthening climate cooperation.
We are now beginning to see the effects of climate change in changing weather systems worldwide. Decarbonisation has become more of a priority for investors, customers and employees when they think about the organisations they want to be involved with.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is something the majority of large, established organisations now report on, and it is something that more investors are prioritising. Individuals are beginning to understand and concentrate when deciding which organisations to shop at, bank with or work for.
Traditional physical money and cards are hugely unsustainable – minting coins results in carbon emissions, and add to that the emissions involved in making polymer plastic bank notes and bank cards every year.
Plus the electricity involved in keeping ATMs constantly available and the 11 billion receipts – most with BPA and BPS, making them non-recyclable – printed in the UK alone every year, it all adds up to an incredibly unsustainable and damaging way to exchange goods and services.
This all means that changing the way we make payments can have a substantial positive impact on our society’s carbon emissions. Not only this, but offering a sustainable option for making payments has the potential to:
- Empower citizens to take control of their carbon emissions in their everyday lives with small changes that add up.
- Collect data that drives insights into how people spend, driving new investment into products and services that are good for the bottom line, people and planet.
- Allow payments organisations to be market leaders and changemakers, advocating for a more people and planet-focused business model and way of life.
In this way, payment services that prioritise environmental and social factors can play an essential role in stimulating investment and shaping the future. Empowered citizens who understand the reasons for making more socially and environmentally conscious decisions are citizens who are more likely to think creatively and make other more sustainable choices.
Individuals who feel they have no choice and can make no difference when faced with our planet’s current huge issues are likely to freeze up and make less sustainable choices. Giving your customers the chance to feel like they are making the world a better place every time they pay for groceries will have positive impacts that go well beyond reducing carbon emissions, with the potential to help create more focused, positive human beings who can see the changes their small actions can make.
Some examples of fintech organisations harnessing alternative payment methods include Computop. The company has been a member of Leaders for Climate Action since 2020 and is committed to regional and international environmental and climate protection projects. The firm told me that when looking at its first carbon balance, it was clear that its electricity consumption and company cars had a decisive impact on its carbon footprint. And with every new carbon footprint balance calculation, they learn more.
Computop also offers “climate-neutral payments”, intended to give merchants the opportunity to show that they are also committed to environmental and climate protection at the point of checkout.
When speaking to Computop’s communication director, Henning Brandt, he stated: “In order to set up and pursue a useful sustainable climate protection strategy, a lot of work must be done. And not just at the beginning, but constantly: for example, we as the communication department collect data on our CO2 emissions every year and try to motivate colleagues, customers and partners to become active for climate protection through various campaigns such as the Time for Climate Action Week.
“Furthermore, we are always looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. So, we have helped to push and implement initiatives such as job bicycles, e-company cars or our founding membership of the Green Software Design Community.”
His colleague Stephanie Schwarzendorfer said something that really resonated with me as a communication professional: “For Computop, climate protection means not only becoming active as a company, but also getting employees, customers and partners on board and bringing about change together – because this is the only way sustainable climate protection can work.
“Therefore, the communications department plays a crucial role in delivering a link between management and the various stakeholders. That’s why, for example, we founded the Green Payment People employee group. Here, employees can communicate their thoughts with regard to climate protection and exchange ideas. We, as the communications team, then convey these to our management team.”
Virtual cards and mobile wallets are becoming a more frequent choice, with many challenger banks now offering this alongside their traditional bank cards. So, there are solutions to the problem of payment carbon emissions. There is precedent and appetite among the public for challenger banks to find ways to bank that are better for the planet and also more convenient for consumers.
The potential benefits of an alternative payments market are huge. Alternative payment methods can help encourage a more sharing-based economy, in which goods are re-used, re-loved and rented, and the data-driven insights that are gathered can be used to develop better strategies for achieving people and planet goals, as well as economic goals.
The fintech industry is full of people dedicated to challenging the status quo, finding new and better ways of doing business and taking action that inspires people to become changemakers.
Finding a more sustainable way to make payments is a way to become leaders in the industry, creating change that people can build into their everyday life – easy, positive action that will inspire them to do more and highlight the difference they are able to make.
About the author
Gihan Hyde is the award-winning communication specialist and founder of CommUnique, an ESG communication start-up.
She has been implementing ESG campaigns in eight sectors, across six countries over the past 20 years.
Her campaigns have positively impacted over 150,000 employees and 200,000 customers and have closed over £300m in investment deals. Some of the clients she has advised include The World Health Organisation (WHO), HSBC, Barclays, M&S, SUEZ, Grundfos, Philip Morris, USAID, and the Saudi Government.
Get in touch with Gihan through LinkedIn or Twitter @gehanam.