Eco labelling is coming for your… everything it seems. 

Washing machines and fridges are the latest consumer products set to be labelled with their “embodied emissions” in a bid to promote greener products. Along with emissions figures, UK government officials are also pushing for a letter-based ranking, such as from A to G, to make it even easier for buyers to compare products based on their carbon footprints.

The food and beverage industry has been a prime testing ground for such initiatives for years. No wonder, as global food production is responsible for 35% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. 

In 2020, Just Salad became the first restaurant chain in the US to display the carbon footprint of its online menu items. As of 2022, the menus of contract caterer BM come with a “carbon badge” across all its business and industry sites in the UK. In January, Swedish food company Oatly debuted carbon footprint labels on its plant-based yoghurt products sold in North America.

UK retail giants Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op trialled VR environmental labels last summer in an effort to build a harmonised, industry-wide labelling standard in the country. In a pioneering move, Denmark pledged DKK 9 million to develop climate labelling proposals in 2022 to be used nationwide and drive sustainable consumption.

Money: the next frontier in carbon labelling? 

Shoppers seem  to be very much on board with this idea. In a 2020 YouGov survey, commissioned by net zero emissions advocacy group Carbon Trust, two-thirds of consumers were in favour of carbon labelling on products. The respondents hailed from across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US.

Restaurants, supermarkets and electronics stores, however, aren’t the only places where you vote with your wallet. It’s whenever and wherever you open it, physically, digitally or wirelessly.

This means that banks are more than well-positioned to inform people’s spending choices and to help mitigate their impact. Last year, Cogo and Behavioural Insights Team surveyed 2,007 UK mobile banking users to find out how they feel about banks encouraging them to reduce their environmental footprints. Eight in ten welcomed the idea, suggesting a 52-million-strong customer pool interested in green banking features and products. 

So the question remains: can banks deliver these? 

Raiffeisen’s carbon insights: a success story in the making

Thanks to data analytics, more and more can. 

For years now, I’ve been part of RBI Group’s journey towards building banking apps across their geographies that not only help users track their spending but also make it greener. Just last week, Raiffeisen Bank Romania became the group’s latest subsidiary to roll out carbon footprint monitoring functionality – and the first to make it available for users right in their Smart Market loyalty apps. 

The feature runs on the same data and technology as our Carbon Stories solution, meaning it calculates users’ monthly CO2 footprint based on the transactions they make using their Raiffeisen current accounts. Along with emissions data, customers also see the top five spending categories that have driven their environmental impact over the past 30 days, such as food, utilities or travel, and subcategories like takeout, insurance or air ticket charges.

As I mentioned in a previous post, however, carbon footprint data to most people is just that – data. Not many of us know by heart what the national average carbon footprint is so we can compare it to our own. Or how many tree seedlings should be planted to offset it. This is why in the app, emissions figures are translated into equivalents that people can easily make sense of, like a 350-km car ride from Paris to Brussels. 

Green vs. green-ish: the one thing that can make or break green ambitions

When developing RBI Group’s custom carbon insights widget, one thing became clear to us early on. That is, knowing how your spending affects the environment and knowing what to do about it are two sides of the same coin (no pun intended). Showing banking app users what steps they can take in their everyday lives to actively fight climate change is key to helping them go from ambition to action. 

According to Helping Customers Live Low-Carbon Lifestyles, a guide for retailers jointly published by the British Retail Consortium and PwC, it’s crucial that businesses close the intent-action gap by removing friction and ‘nudging’ consumers in the right directions. The findings of Deloitte’s 2022 Sustainability & Consumer Behaviour survey echoes this with 48% of respondents citing lack of information as a main barrier to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

For this reason, we’ve made sure that Raiffeisen carbon footprint digests highlight the merchants that contribute the most to users’ environmental impact and come with easy-to-implement tips on how they could squeeze their carbon footprints. For example, ditch their cars and walk or ride their bikes when running errands, switch to reusable water bottles instead of single-use ones or swap a meat dish for a veggie one once a week.

One last thing: never underestimate the importance of learning from customers while educating them on climate action. 

Whatever tool you’re looking to implement to help users build low-carbon habits, find a way to get their feedback. In the Deloitte survey mentioned above, respondents’ reasons for not taking the leap towards sustainability included lack of interest, lack of time and everything in between. Make sure you understand what works for your user base and what doesn’t and work towards personalising content to their needs one update at a time. 

I’m happy to share more of our experience in building such solutions and explore how we can tackle new challenges. If you’d like to talk about banking apps that inspire sustainability and help bank customers curb their environmental impact, do reach out. 


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