The Odyssey to Sustainability

The Bank of England is warning banks to take immediate action on climate risks or face a 15% hit to annual profits. Customers, investors and special interest groups are all demanding more action on the impact of money on the planet.

With the growth of the Environmental and Social Corporate Governance (ESG) movement, customers are asking a lot of questions about their banks’ corporate policies. Is the bank transparent with its public disclosures? Does the bank use its resources responsibly? Does it treat its customers and employees fairly? Does the bank fight corruption?  Banks are now stack ranked not only on their service to customers but also their ESG stance as with this Newsweek Ranking.

QS Rankings place the Royal College of Art as the World No 1 Art and Design University for the 8th year running. Moroku was invited to participate in a series of design workshop at the college on sustainable banking as the industry faces up to its impact, responsibility and opportunity on ESG.

At a time when climate change poses one of the biggest challenges for the nation and the globe, Vote Compass data shows an overwhelming number of us want more action.

In Australia, almost 60 per cent of voters want “much more” cuts to emissions. 79 per cent support further action.

Banks are being forced to respond. Commerzbank is rebranding its innovation unit and early-stage investor as part of a sharper focus on sustainability. The German lender says that customer demand in the B2B and B2C sectors is no longer just growing for digital technology, but above all for sustainable offerings.

People want to be able to meet their life needs whilst being socially responsible and protecting the planet. However, making sustainable decisions is tough and full of choice and confusion. Banks have a role to play, not only in making sustainable supply chain decisions but also in supporting day to day sustainable choices of their customers. Individually it can feel like its hard to have an impact, but collectively we can have a massive impact. To do so requires us to be brought together – data can do this and banks have the raw material.

Fossil CO2 emissions are the largest source of global GHG emissions, with a share of about 72%, followed by CH4 (19%), N2O (6%) and F-gases (3%).

57% of these emissions are linked to our purchase decisions or about 12.7 tonnes of CO2 per person in the UK. To put that into perspective:

  • Your heating would need to be going full blast for 80 days straight (although it would explode before you got there).
  • You would need to drive 23,000 miles in the average car to emit 12.7 tonnes of CO2e (that’s once around the world).
  • You’d have to eat over 1,000 beef steaks or 4,100 camemberts.

If ‘miles driven’ or food isn’t helping you visualise 12.7 tonnes, how about the equivalent weight. It’s the same as:

  • 18 dairy cows
  • 10,500 bottles of wine
  • 25 million plastic straws

73% of consumers globally said that they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. 52% of Aussies say they’d pay more for products or services if it came from a business that was actively reducing its carbon footprint. In a world striving for climate action, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their purchase behaviour.  There are gains to be had; shower gels saw sales decline 0.8% in 2018, whilst sales of natural shower gel sales skyrocketed upward 80%. We are voting with our wallets.

The RCA team reviewed market research from Deloitte, Visa and Mastercard to understand the current landscape of sustainable behaviours and augmented this with some primary research, interviewing consumers on the streets of London.

They concluded that young adults want to feel better about themselves through the decisions they make, caring for the planet and the next generation, by opting for a greener lifestyle in their everyday activities. Yet they lack they knowledge of how to live more sustainably, with uncertainty about how those decisions actually deliver an outcome and are conflicted with everyday priorities. They want to act and build habits oriented around their goals, by being able to understand the impact of their decisions and feel a sense of belonging when they do so. They want to know how the small decisions they are making are having an impact. Providing feedback on the sustainability of consumer purchasing decisions by adding sustainability intelligence into the payment infrastructure can do this.

The consumer of 2122 doesn’t consider sustainability principles & guidance as nice to haves, or even competitive advantages. They’re table stakes, as important as security, privacy, & liquidity. The sooner markets respond to this opportunity, the better hope we have of an inhabitable planet for future generations” : Joel Hanna, CEO, Big Little Brush.

There is currently a lack of capability in the day-to-day transaction infrastructure that actually helps users towards adapting to action to help climate change. IBM call this the intention-action gap. There is a significant opportunity to leverage the need for social and community belonging and participation by using rewards and incentive theory to motivate consumers towards action and drive peer to peer engagement. This can be done by extending the transaction categorisation capabilities being used to help budgetting to calculate and show collective and individual impact on consumer purchasing decisions.

Odyssey is Moroku’s configurable, multi-league, engagement engine for financial service providers that want their customers to succeed and can be used for this purpose. Odyssey knows where customers are on their journey and where they’ve come from to then nudge them onwards. The platform allows banks and FinTechs to deliver personalised digital financial journeys to help customers win with their money, unlocking new weapons, skills and allies on the way. The platform has a set of player maps for the core banking activities of saving, spending, lending and investing and operates across demographics and life stages to begin the process of personalising the journeys. As with financial wellness, this approach is adaptive to planetary wellness.

There’s plenty of fun to be had along the way to sustainability. Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, sending an additional one million tons a week to landfills. This could be a perfect time to run a focussed mission on how buying stuff impacts the planet and have some fun.

The spending journey is the perfect place to embed sustainability goals, missions, actions, nudges and rewards. Data presented on a player map that shows everyone how they are doing individually as well as collectively towards tuning our everyday purchasing decisions in support of the planet could be a thing of beauty. Banks are beginning to get it as are Bank Australia. A sustainable payments infrastructure is more than using green data centers. A sustainable payments infrastructure can be one that promotes sustainable purchase decisions and can have a massive impact. Purchasing decisions can be linked to alternatives that are more sustainable along with content unravelling some of the complexities to drive engagement, loyalty, trust and hope. 

 Banks and FinTechs with large enough data sets can lift them onto platforms such as Odyssey to provide customers with guidance not only on how they are doing financially but also on how their are journeying on sustainabilityThis feedback is provided as an individual as well as a collective. By embedding such strategic engagement initiatives into the digital experience financial institutions are able to build empathy, support and encouragement for the hard work customers do. Ultimately this builds relationships and loyalty.

We are vast network of connected beings, working together, capable of restoring balance. A key shift in our intelligence was our increased establishment of communication. (There is some evidence that this occured at the same time as we began eating biological networks , ancient networks of fungi that compounded genetic effects to expand cavemans intelligence and specifically their ability to communicate.)  As we wait for governments and world leaders to lead our way forward, individuals are increasingly ready to activate collectively. We should dare to provide them the platforms and incentives, based on human psychology, involving not logic, but aspects such as fear, greed, laziness, and narcissism to guide and support them to do the right thing and participate.