Dr Carsten Wengel, head of global sales and distribution in the card and digital payment business at G+D, spoke to Finextra on sustainable cashless options that are emerging in the financial services sector.
Following a conversation with his colleagues on sustainable banknotes earlier this year, exploring innovations being made in the production of environmentally-friendly cash, G+D elaborated on the future of sustainability in cashless payments, specifically cards.
Dr Wengel believes that payment cards will continue to grow in the global market, and that the new focus will be on how to make card payments as sustainable as possible.
“There's a worldwide trend taking place with financial service institutions wanting to act more sustainably, which I find encouraging. It will not only to produce less waste in the future by recycling, it also shows that the financial services industry is revisiting the way financial payments are being done. The offerings from banks that are using recycled cards are also changing; you are getting offerings from banks that are going to invest in reforestation projects if you have an account, and for every fifth transaction they are planting a tree, for example. We are seeing the topic of sustainability really resonating in the financial services industry.”
Dr Wengel compares the financial services industry to a “mirror of society” in terms of how many countries and communities are currently looking for solutions to combat climate change. He indicates the social and societal implications of sustainability go beyond profit and financial trends and focus on the growing collective goal to save the planet.
G+D is connected to over 700 banks internationally and produces roughly 500 million cards per year, approxitmately 10% of which are recycled. The company’s goal for 2025 is to produce 40% recycled cards, and by 2030 to no longer produce any virgin plastic cards, and Dr Wengel is confident about hitting that target before 2030.
G+D is currently producing three sustainable payment cards. One is 100% plastic recycled PVC, which is only using recycled materials and no oil consumptions in the process. The second, their PLA card, has a biodegradable conscience as it contains no plastics and is only using material that is corn starch based. The final is their ocean plastic card, which is made of plastic materials collected from beaches and oceans and used to promote beach cleanup - a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans.
Dr Wengel expands on the environmental impact of the ocean plastic card: “The Bank of Tahiti recently launched a project on this as they were taking a look at Tahiti’s plastics problem. They are using this method to promote plastic cleanup or beach cleanup projects in the country, which is interesting because this is how a financial services institution is connecting the issuance of the card with a wider initiative that they are usually running. It then becomes really meaningful for the people who sign up for these accounts.”
G+D is also manufacturing cards in Barcelona that are run on photovoltaic energy for the whole production facility. Major European, Latin American and Canadian Banks are considering the move to 100% recycled cards, joining forces with G+D and their sustainable methods.
When asked about the most sustainable cashless payment option, Dr Wengel thought aloud at the true essence of what the most sustainable method of payments would be. He considered that the best way to determine the most sustainable option would be to monitor its energy consumption.
While many are inclined to believe that cashless payments are more sustainable methods of payment, they still use energy in the transaction process.
Dr Wengel explains that new solutions have emerged in digital wallets which calculate the carbon production from digital payments through integrated apps. These allow consumers more transparency in their daily lives to make more decisions when purchasing items on their own impact on the environment, as it gives consumers the responsibility to make their own choices on sustainable payments.
Bitcoin alone uses the same amount of energy as the country of Ireland does in one year, and it is only one of almost countless cryptocurrencies. Energy consumption of crypto is significant, mainly due to the carbon released and energy consumed by huge datacenters value storage. Solutions are being pursued via coding apps and software that can reduce powers of servers and compute power to make digital currencies more sustainable in the future.
Dr Wengel describes the essentiality of sustainability in the industry: “Earlier I said the word ‘trends’ when it comes to sustainability, but for me sustainability is not a trend, it's here to stay. Why? Because the climate crisis is also here to stay. It's not going away the next two to three years. So there will be a continuous effort by the general financial services industry – be it fintechs, neobanks, or traditional institutions – they are building towards this shift. I think financial services industry can be a huge amplifier and contributor to making a better, more carbon neutral world in the future.”
Dr Wengel concludes with a positive outlook on the future of the financial services industry; more and more large financial institutions are making roadmaps to reach net zero, working towards reduction of their carbon emissions, and promoting that connection between society and financial services that is underlying sustainable development goals that are aimed at protecting our planet. He believes that there is going to be an overall transformation of the global economy to become more sustainable in the future.