News & Views - Savantor

“Green” Finance

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

The current media band wagon proclaiming 'Green Is Good' is generally supported by public opinion - apart from fortnightly bin collections!  The organic produce industry is worth £millions to the big supermarkets, landfill is an increasingly political issue and we are all now trying to understand our carbon footprint to see what we as individuals can do to reduce this global problem.  What can the payments industry do to help? 

Well let's look at the production of hard cash; there is the cost of the raw materials in paper, metal, inks and dyes; the shipping costs and the cost of the energy used to produce the end products. There is an impact and drain on the natural resources: wood pulp and mining works plus the clean water that keep the production machines working; all of these have some environmental effect, as do the materials used to produce the energy that heats the base metals and drives the machinery. The ATM's do not fill themselves and all the bank branches have to be supplied with cash and coins. The transport of the cash around any country causes a carbon issue and increased CO2 and adds to the traffic congestion that all major cities are experiencing, thus adding to global warming.  In addition paper money carries germs and has the ability to spread disease very quickly.

What are the options available to the end user in the search for a greener way to transact?  The Internet, mobile, satellite and card all provide an easy and more environmentally acceptable approach to this type of end user requirement.  The growth of contactless cards and NFC in mobile phones is testament to the potential in this area as is the development of more environmentally friendly material to replace the traditional plastic cards.  The cost is less in terms of environmental impact and the growth can be handled without impacting heavily on the natural resources.  According to APACS, there is currently a "sea change" in terms of credit card providers providing environmentally-friendly options.  Whilst currently this is mostly in terms of donations to green causes, last month Barclaycard launched a new green credit card called Breathe which is fashioned from an environmentally-friendly material in addition to donating money to charities.  This card will:

  • donate 50 per cent of Barclaycard Breathe profits to environmental projects dedicated to reducing carbon emissions around the world.
  • offer cardholders discounts and lower rate borrowing on green products and services.
  • take a greener approach to account management including online statements and recycling of card plastics.
  • offer a greener customer experience with no paper statements, marketing directed through online channel, cards made from PETg - a more environmentally friendly alternative to current PVC cards - and a recycling scheme for old cards when new cards are issued.

HSBC has created a five-year, partnership to respond to the urgent threat of climate change world-wide with the support of The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and WWF.  The HSBC Climate Partnership will:

  • help some of the world's great cities - Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Shanghai - respond to the challenge of climate change;
  • create 'climate champions' worldwide who will undertake field research and bring back valuable knowledge and experience to their communities;
  • conduct the largest ever field experiment on the world's forests to measure carbon and the effects of climate change;
  • help protect some of the world's major rivers - including the Amazon, Ganges, Thames, and Yangtze - from the impacts of climate change.

The message over the next 5 to10 years is focus on reducing carbon usage on non- essential activity; natural resources are scarce and must be protected. There are positive moves in the payment market to help in that fight against waste and global warming. Furthermore, the customer proposition is enhanced since one is trying to positively help the environment and the customer's own carbon footprint.

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