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The Power Of Going Green: Credit Unions And Sustainable Plastics

Issuing sustainable cards is a simple way to reduce carbon footprints and support green initiatives.

The use of sustainable cards in lieu of traditional plastic credit and debit cards is on the rise. Using sustainable cards allows credit unions and financial institutions to take a stand on environmental issues, unite with consumers around a shared cause, and create real change by switching to renewable resources.

As people seek to visibly demonstrate their values, eco-friendly cards are more and more appealing. In a CPI survey, 73% of respondents said it is important their bank or credit union is environmentally conscious, and 63% reported they were very concerned about the environment and plastic waste.

The Value Of Corporate Social Responsibility

Today, many consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues and be environmentally conscious. According to a World Wildlife Fund report, internet searches for sustainable products have increased 71% over the past five years, clear evidence that more consumers now care about the environmental impact of the products they use.

Corporations and entire countries are responding accordingly and continuing to make pledges to go greener and reduce the use of single-use and hard-to-recycle items like plastic. NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business research shows that within the past seven years, the number of products marketed as sustainable has grown more than seven times faster than products marketed conventionally.

People make daily choices to live a greener life, like choosing to recycle, driving more efficient cars, and turning off lights and water when not using them. All of these small choices add up to a greater impact, and sustainable cards can be yet another choice consumers make to have a real impact on the environment. While making the switch to a single plastic card might not seem like much, it adds up: In 2022, CPI announced it sold more than 50 million of its eco-focused payment cards. The company estimates that for every 1 million Second Wave cards sold, more than one ton of plastic will be diverted from entering the world’s oceans, waterways, and shorelines.

Implementation Of Sustainable Cards

Typical credit and debit cards are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a first-use plastic that is durable and inexpensive to produce. PSCU, the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO), has partnered with CPI to start offering two types of sustainable cards that are made from recycled PVC and comparable to plastic cards in durability, cost to produce and versatility: Earthwise cards are made with up to 85% upcycled plastic, and Second Wave cards are made using recovered ocean-bound plastics.

Depending on a credit union’s environmental perspective and membership base, it can choose which path is best. Second Wave cards are more niche as they take plastic specifically from the ocean, which could be to a credit union’s advantage to appeal to those with a particular passion for ocean clean-up efforts and other marine-focused passions. Or, credit unions can consider the Earthwise card if reducing plastics in general is a top priority.

When it comes to successful implementation of sustainable cards, there are a few key steps to follow. First, aligning the financial institution’s mission with sustainable cards is critical to making everyone aware of the institution’s core values and goals. Then, set both internal and external goals for the production and distribution of sustainable cards and prepare a marketing plan that emphasizes a positive environmental impact. Consumers are more likely to be interested in these cards if they can visualize the actual effects they will have on the environment. Finally, by combining a marketing plan with effective branding on the actual card itself, consumers will positively associate your financial institution with sustainability and a positive impact on the environment.

The shift toward sustainability is only going to grow more prominent and increase in importance. There are virtually no downfalls for a credit union that opts to shift to sustainable cards as brand image, member sentiment, and competitive advantage are all heightened. Implementing and issuing sustainable cards is a simple way for credit unions to reduce their carbon footprint and support green initiatives.

Cody Banks leads PSCU’s payments, fraud, loyalty, and contact center product teams. In his role, Banks focuses on developing and delivering safe, easy, and convenient payments experiences for the company’s Owner credit unions. Prior to joining PSCU in 2017, Banks spent nearly 10 years in the credit union industry navigating complex initiatives with a focus on journey mapping of the member experience.

This article is sponsored by a recognized solutions provider in the credit union industry. Callahan & Associates does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer, and the views and opinions offered here might not reflect those of Callahan. If you are interested in contributing an article on CreditUnions.com, please contact the Callahan team at ads@creditunions.com or 1-800-446-7453.
April 4, 2022

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