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Money20/20: Carbon trackers are the “and/and” solution to the climate crisis

Money20/20: Carbon trackers are the “and/and” solution to the climate crisis

Sitting at Cogo’s zero-waste stand at Money20/20 in Amsterdam, Finextra caught up with ING and Cogo to discuss their carbon footprint calculator and the wider impact of using trackers for customers.

ING began a trial of Cogo’s carbon tracking app in August 2022, with 500,000 customers. The partnership proved to be successful, with Cogo reporting that customers who choose to use the tracker are more likely to recommend their bank to family or friends. ING is now planning to expand the feature across all of their mobile banking customers.

Emma Kisby, Cogo CEO, EMEA, said: “ Every pound you spend, every year you spend, essentially creates greenhouse gases which have contributed to the climate crisis. And if you read the IPCC report, overconsumption is one of the biggest drivers of the climate crisis. But, consumers don't really understand this yet.”

Regarding the role of banks, Léon Wijnands, head of sustainability, ING, argued: “When you look at retail banking, a lot of the focus is on greening your mortgage book and try to create new green financial products. There are two or three interesting observations. The first is, I think the financial products are not green in itself. The only thing which makes it green is the assets that you're ultimately financing.”

“The second is, if you look at where real impact is, in an average household 20% of the emissions is in the built environment. That is energy bills, the energy efficiency of your building, etc. Around 7% is in your travel. 70% is in buying stuff. We are used to really focusing on that relatively small part while the biggest part is in buying stuff or rather, not buying stuff or buying it in a smarter or different way."

It has been debated that carbon trackers place the onus of the climate crisis on the individual, by removing the responsibility of bigger corporations to divest from oil and gas. In responding to this, Kisby said: “Take banks like ING - they're not investing in fossil fuels. So, for the operational footprint it is really important that banks do that. But it's very difficult for a customer to know what their bank is doing. What we say is ‘here's your carbon footprint’, but we also say, ‘this is what you can do, but this is what we are doing’. The onus is not me, it's on we.”

Wijnands further added: “I don't think it's an ‘and/or’ problem but it's an ‘and/and’ solution that we that we need to find here.” ING have worked to separate themselves from the oil and gas industries. They have not yet removed themselves entirely, maintaining investments under the argument that total divestment from fossil fuels would too heavily affect the affordability and accessibility of energy for consumers.

Wijnands continued: “We would never have launched this into the consumer markets if we had not first taken big steps in the wholesale market because I think that's the most logical order in impact, and not a reputational consideration.”

Kisby concluded: “This isn't just a nice thing to do - it is integral. Signalling demand is a really important data point.”

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