Sustainability is no longer a strategic decision in banking. Climate change is at our doorstep and banks worldwide must consider an environment-friendly approach to their processes. It should no longer be just a matter of choice for financial institutions to adopt a climate-first approach for green banking.
Many banks have already begun integrating sustainability into their business operations by responding to environmental, social, governance concerns (ESG). More than a third of the global banking industry (214) have adopted the Principles of Responsible Banking. This is a framework which aligns signatory banks’ sustainability strategy and practice with that of the society according to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.
At the same time, the demand for green banking products is expected to reach new heights in the next few years. Younger people, which soon will represent the majority of the adult population and thus the future customers, are advocating all the more loudly about green initiatives, green products, and green processes.
With that in mind and the International Forests and Water day, the team of compiled a list of a few banks worldwide that have launched green banking initiatives. Customers of these can protect the environment and fight climate change while conducting their daily digital banking.
Starling bank's 4 steps to their referral and tree-planting green initiative. Source: Starling bank website
Starling bank is completely branchless, paperless, running on 100% renewable energy and as of last week offers 75% recyclable plastic debit cards. Besides that, they provide customers the chance to participate in the Plant the Seed initiative. The UK bank has partnered with Trillion Trees, a non-profit conservation organization to fight deforestation and re-grow 1 trillion trees by 2050, to provide a referral scheme. According to this scheme when a Starling bank customer refers the bank to a friend, and that friend joins the bank, Trillion Trees will plant a new tree on its way to make the planet greener.
Why did Starling bank choose to plant trees?
“Trees are one of our best defences in the fight against climate change, because they absorb the carbon dioxide that causes climate change."
Treecard monitoring your tree-planting impact. Source: Treecard website
Another bank that promises to protect the environment is TreeCard. The bank might not have launched yet (expected to in 2021), but it has captured our attention with its commitment to reforest the planet through its digital banking offerings. 80% of the bank’s profits go towards the reforestation project. The bank having partnered with the tree planting search engine Ecosia, will provide customers with the ability to track their personal impact. Every 60$ a customer spends in their daily payments will be translated into a new tree planted.
Why plant trees?
“Trees are not only the most effective carbon capturers we have on the planet, they also help to restart water cycles and restore drylands, preventing the spread of deserts.”
See how many trees you have planted and your rewards in Aspiration app. Source: Aspirarion website
Customers of Aspiration, can make a difference through an Aspiration Spend & Save Account. All their deposits are fossil fuel-free and customers can opt in to support the Plant Your Change organization by turning on the feature in their account. Plant Your Change battles climate change by planting trees. The Aspiration Plant Your Change feature rounds up customer’s debit card purchases to the nearest whole dollar. The rounded up amount goes towards a large fund to plant trees. They are debited from their customers card the next and they receive a notification about the number of trees that will be planted with their help. With every customer swipe, the bank commits to planting a tree. And what’s more? Customers receive cash rewards for their help planting trees.
Why partner with Plant Your Change?
“Aspiration has launched the Plant Your Change program because recent studies have indicated that planting trees is one of the best ways to combat human-caused climate change.”
bunq' Easy Green. Source: bunq website
The Netherlands-based bunq is another EU-based bank that provides green banking products to its clients. Through the Easy green monthly-plan, customers can go carbon neutral in 2 years and apply for the bank’s greenest, longer-lasting Metal card. Additionally by paying through that card, when they spend 100€ a tree will be planted with the help of their partners, Eden Reforestation Projects making the world a bit greener. Additionally, customers can actually see their impact by receiving shareable trophies. When they have planted 10 trees, they get a trophy for that, which they can share to their friends. Competing with your friends for how many trees each have planted can’t be wrong.
The importance of tree planting
“It’s up to all of us to make a difference and help heal the lungs of our planet – so we decided to take action!”
See how much of the rainforest you have protected. Source: Tomorrow website
Tomorrow bank, based in Germany, offers their customers apart from artistic card design the chance to contribute towards climate protection. With every euro paid through their Tomorrow card they protect 1m² of rainforest. How do they do that? When customers pay in a store or online, the shop owner is required to pay a small transactional fee to your bank, the Interchange fee. Tomorrow invests the largest percentage of this fee to projects that supports reforestation. Customers are also able to monitor and understand their overall impact.
“Trees absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere and store them in their trunks, stems, leaves and roots. Because of their great amount of biomass rainforests are especially important. They store a lot more carbon dioxide than our temperate forests. That’s why they are so important for climate protection.”
Estimate the CO₂ produced by your expenses and and compensate for it. Source: Flowe website
The Italian bank directly provides customers with the ability to battle climate change by dedicating a tree with ZeroCO₂ to customers when they apply for a card. The Flowe card is wooden and designed to be in par with environmental standards. When a customer requests one, a tree is planted in their name in Guatemala to offset the CO₂, while financially supporting the local economy and nutrition of families. In partnership with climate-impact fintech Doconomy, they measure customer CO₂ production from their expenses with Flowe Card Mastercard. Not only that, but they also try to compensate that through supporting climate protection projects that promote reforestation. And this is only one of the ways this bank has been helping protect the environment, counting more partnerships with organizations worldwide.
We are beyond thrilled to be seeing such green initiates. These show that banks go beyond pledging to contribute to climate preservation. But they are actively trying to include and encourage customers to participate in shielding the environment. Protecting our planet is everyone’s responsibility.
Banks have an important role in enabling change and amplifying their voice towards climate protection. Their aim should not be just compliance to ESG, but spreading awareness and providing means for customers to act through their banking. We are hoping for more banks worldwide to follow in the footsteps of these banks and launch new green initiatives.