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Payments, Plastics, People and Planet - why cards and climate change go hand in hand

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Last editedApr 20222 min read

As co-founder of the Tech Zero coalition, a group of businesses committed to taking climate action as part of the UNFCC Race To Zero, we’ve openly discussed GoCardless’ emissions and the steps we plan to take in order to reach net-zero. In fact, at the start of this year we shared our Sustainability Strategy and Net-Zero Action Plan which sets out our long and short-term science-based targets.

Whilst GoCardless has a clear aim of reducing our impact, we are also constantly seeking opportunities to create positive change on the natural world and communities, and to share our learnings to support other businesses who wish to also work towards net-zero carbon emissions. Collaboration is critical to achieving these targets. No business or person can take climate action alone, and to become a sustainable business, we need to help our employees, customers, and suppliers to become sustainable too. 

Payments, Plastic, People and Planet Report 

GoCardless has been working with Carbon Footprint to look at the role of the payment world in climate change and how we can make a positive impact by removing unnecessary processes and products. The results were eye-opening and demonstrated the difference it would make to move away from physical payment systems, such as plastic and credit cards, and instead utilise digital payment methods. 

One clear example of this is how removing the need for physical payment cards avoids the emissions created in their manufacture and disposal:

  1. Plastic production and disposal produced 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 — equivalent to 220 Coal-Fired Power Stations.

  2. It is not only the climate impact but the impact of pollution on biodiversity, with 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year, resulting in the death of more than 1,000,000 birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles every year.

  3. In 2021, 17.2 billion cards were manufactured, creating 293,525 tCo2e.

  4. This is equivalent to driving around the Earth 43,000 times in an average diesel car. 

  5. With 20.5 billion cards predicted to be in circulation by 2025, this could rise to 349,841 tCo2e. 

This is a staggering level of emissions when, quite frankly, payment methods which don’t require plastic cards or card machines are available. Furthermore, a typical card transaction involves eight steps, yet a direct bank payment requires only two, substantially reducing the associated energy and emissions involved - dependent upon the energy source the payment provider uses for this process. This is just one of many examples as to how businesses, and their customers, can take a step toward climate action. 

It is of course important that businesses take climate action across their entire business - and you can find out more about what we are doing here -and whilst our report shows the impact of how we pay for things, behavioural change of consumers and what they buy is crucial as part of wider climate action. 

Why should businesses care about taking climate action?

Climate action isn’t a new topic, but consumer interest has reached a new peak. A new study by YouGov for GoCardless finds that two-thirds (66%) of consumers say that, compared to two years ago, they are more conscious about how their consumption patterns affect the environment, and 69% are actively looking for more ways to reduce their environmental impact. The reality is that if businesses want to attract top employee talent and meet the needs of their customers, climate action needs to be on the agenda. 

Read our full report

You can read our Payments, Plastics, People and Planet report to discover further insights on the impact of the payment world on climate change, and to learn more about the effective changes your business could make to reduce your own impact.

Read the full report now.  

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