With all the concern about ongoing climate change and the need to conserve our environment, it seems like even financial institutions are becoming more responsive towards the green aspirations of their customers, but are their efforts genuinely green or are they merely jumping on the great big eco bandwagon so it looks as if they’re being environmentally-friendly?
Banks exist to make money; usually out of us. So with a raft of new credit products, not just in the United States, but also in Europe and Asia, can we really shop our way to a cleaner planet? What exactly are customers being offered? What makes one card greener than the next? Does it cost more to have a green credit card? And will any these eco products truly make a difference to the environment? We’ll let you decide for yourself.
GE Money released the Earth Rewards card in 2007 allowing consumers to appoint one percent of their purchases to fund projects that offset carbon dioxide emissions. All of the generated offsets get pooled and then annually, on Earth Day, GE say they will invest them in legitimate carbon offset projects.
The HSBC Green Credit Card claims seriously green credentials. The card itself is made from environmentally-friendly materials, accounts are managed online so that paper statements are cut down and 0.1% of purchases made using the card will go towards funding local environmental projects. In Hong Kong funds are being used to create green roofs for schools in one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Following on from the success of the Earth Rewards card, GE Money recently launched its Eco MasterCard in Australia, which is the first credit card of its kind down under. As cardholders spend on the card they contribute to a variety of emission reducing and avoidance projects through the Origin Carbon Reduction Scheme.
Environmental initiatives set to directly benefit include reforestation, renewable energy, water and wastewater treatment and land and habitat conservation. However, only one percent of purchases will be contributed to emission reduction projects. The card has a typical APR of 18.49% p.a. which is fairly high meaning that it suits the sort of person who pays off their balance each month, that, or a clue as to how these cards might gather the money to finance planned projects.
The success of the Breathe card is tethered to how successful it is in the eyes of consumers. Barclaycard’s Breathe donates a whopping 50% of after-tax profits to government-approved environmental projects in the UK, South America and Asia that tackle climate change. Apart from these benefits, the Breathe card generates no paper statements for its customers and the card itself is made from greener non-PVC material.
The Climate Card, which is the first outcome of a three-year partnership between the WWF and Rabobank, and contributes to initiatives fighting climate change, will be made available to 1.1 million cardholders of Rabobank soon. Rabobank will invest directly in Gold Standard climate change projects to cover the CO2 emissions that are linked to all credit card purchases.
Exactly how much money will be contributed to selected projects is worked out using a complex calculation developed by Rabobank and the WWF based on data provided by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The Gold Standard is a recognised standard that guarantees sustainable wind, solar, water and biomass energy projects in third world countries. The projects that receive funds from the Climate Card will help reduce emmissions as any energy produced for local communities will be through using clean technology only.
The RSPB Visa Card has been a pioneer in the green personal finance sector. First launched in 1989, proceeds from the card have so far amounted to over £2 million. When you sign up for the card the RSPB get £18 and if you continue to use the card for at least six months they will receive a further £2.50. On top of this, the RSPB will be paid 25 pence for every £100 of purchases made using the card.
The World Wildlife Fund also have their own green credit card, the World Wildlife Fund Platinum Visa issued by JP Morgan Chase in the United States. Should you decide to sign up for the card, and are approved, JP Morgan Chase will write a cheque for $50 to the WWF and donate 1% of every transaction you make on the card. Funds derived from the credit card will go towards conservation of endangered species and their habitats. This is a lucrative strategy for the WWF: since the card was launched back in 1995 it has raised more than $10 million!
This is said to be one of the best green credit cards currently in use. The Triodos Eco Visa Card aims to offset 1 ton of each of their cardholder’s carbon emissions per year (if used for more than five transactions per month), which is equivalent to the energy needed to provide heat and water for a one bedroom flat. When cardholders make their first purchase they will plant a tree in the Triodos Forest in Albacete, Spain. Triodos are themselves carbon neutral having offset emissions, going paper-free and using renewable energy to power their offices.
We’ll even throw in a free album.