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Eco-Friendly Payment Cards: Beating Competition and Climate Change

Boaz Gam

Boaz Gam


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Article content
  1. The Backstory of “Green” Payment Cards
  2. A Modern Take on Eco-Friendly Credit Cards
  3. Can Going Green Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

Do Eco-Friendly Cards Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

According to the latest studies, 85% of consumers have shifted toward choosing greener products over the past five years. This positive trend has seen a reflection across many industries, with the sphere of payments being no exception. As a result, multiple banks have started offering eco-friendly cards, and this innovative solution is gradually taking over the world.

“Green” credit cards have the power to reduce climate change while helping issuers that develop them gain a competitive advantage, making them an extremely promising endeavor from multiple standpoints. Read ahead to find out what exactly eco-friendly payment cards are and how significant their impact is!

The Backstory of “Green” Payment Cards

Do Eco-Friendly Cards Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

Even though the idea of sustainable credit cards might seem to be very new, the truth is that it has been around for over a decade.

Back in 2007, when the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative published a Green Financial Products and Services report, only a few eco-friendly payment cards existed in North America, typically offering donations to nonprofits for each purchase made using them.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the GreenCard Visa was focusing on offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated throughout the manufacturing and use of the products and services purchased with it.

While these initiatives were out there, the demand for “green” cards was fairly low at the time. Only nowadays, with the drastic shift from a linear economy to a circular one, this sustainable solution is starting to gain the attention it deserves.

A Modern Take on Eco-Friendly Credit Cards

Some of the modern versions of sustainable bank cards are a lot more advanced than their early 2000’s predecessors and have a bigger impact on the future of our planet. As of now, there are two main “green” tracks in the eco-friendly payments movement:

1. Raising Awareness & Influencing Consumer Behavior

Do Eco-Friendly Cards Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

Asian banks are currently leading the change in “green” cards innovation. Here are a few examples:

  • DBS Bank in Taiwan has developed a “DBS eco card” made of a biodegradable polymer. In addition, the bank offers bonuses of 5% for spending on vehicle or scooter sharing.
  • In India, DBS has launched the “Green Credit Card”, which is made of 99% recycled PVC. The bank grants rewards to local users who reduce their carbon footprint by implementing sustainable travel and tourism practices. It has also created a carbon calculator where cardholders can measure their CO2 footprint.
  • E.SUN Bank in Taiwan has developed a digital payment card, thus managing to cut down around 1 kg of CO2 emissions per card. It also provides 10% rewards on sustainable purchases like scooters, bicycles, and car sharing.

As for the US, one of the most prominent local examples of “green” card innovation is Aspiration Bank. It has come up with a program that tracks the impact of spending on the planet to raise consumer awareness. It also gives up to 10% cash back for purchases from socially responsible businesses.

Another worthy mention is Ando in the US, which issues debit cards and plants a tree for each transaction made by cardholders that take part in its “Change That Counts” program.

Actions that are targeted at raising awareness about sustainability issues and influencing consumer behavior, create the most powerful impact. Yet, some banks choose another way to contribute to environmental causes.

2. Reducing Pollution & Donating to Charities

Do Eco-Friendly Cards Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

Many banks choose to follow a less innovative model when setting the course for sustainability and decide to donate a small percentage of the spending to charities or use eco-friendly materials when manufacturing the cards.

Notably, while industry giants like Visa and Mastercard don’t manufacture or issue cards, they also play their part in sustainability initiatives by helping bring alternative production materials forward to reduce the environmental footprint linked to the use of PVC plastic.

While these practices are certainly helpful, their impact is not as significant as that of the initiatives presented in the previous category. This is due to the fact that the overall contribution of bank cards to the global plastic waste issue is relatively small and the donations to charities don’t prompt consumer behavior changes.

Can Going Green Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

Do Eco-Friendly Cards Give Issuers a Competitive Advantage?

It’s a renowned fact that Millenials and Gen Z are highly invested in the sustainability topic and other generations are following suit. In fact, 81% of consumers globally believe that companies should take part in “green” initiatives.

With payment cards remaining a large part of people’s lives, it is safe to say that the demand for eco-friendly payment cards will continue rising. Thus, issuing banks that will develop innovative and impactful programs to help tackle environmental issues are sure to gain a competitive advantage while doing good for the planet.

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