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How the payments industry is tackling the climate crisis
How the payments industry is tackling the climate crisis
Payments companies are uniquely positioned to accelerate the transition to a net zero society – here’s why.
July 18, 2022


The payments landscape is vast – from in-store purchases to ecommerce to credit cards and beyond.

It’s also an industry where innovation is the norm.

Over the last 20 years we’ve seen a mass shift to digital payments, with over 700 billion non-cash transactions made per year. That market alone is now valued at $7.36 trillion and is expected to be worth $15.27 trillion by 2027.

On top of that we have contactless payments, open banking, mobile payments and more.

Now, it’s climate change that’s on the agenda for payments innovation.

Climate impacts are a risk for the industry. A 2020 EY report found that 52% of banks see climate change as a risk for the next 5 years, up from 37% in 2019.

But at the same time, there’s a massive opportunity – we need drastic transformation across all industries to keep to climate targets.

Because of their influence on everyone’s purchasing habits, payments companies are uniquely positioned to accelerate change. That’s why ‘mobilising finance’ was a key topic for COP26 in securing the goal of global net zero emissions by 2050:

“To achieve our climate goals, every company, every financial firm, every bank, insurer and investor will need to change.”

And with 3 out of 4 consumers looking for a climate-friendly payment option, it’s a business opportunity too – especially because payments is a sector that has historically been seen as high-emitting, spurring consumerism and relying on fossil fuel investments. 

Change is needed. But what could that change look like?

So far we’ve seen banks start to bring in sustainable services, such as Mastercard’s Carbon Calculator. We’ve seen payments tech companies begin to integrate green options, like Stripe Climate

But there’s plenty of room for more.

An area of real opportunity – both from the perspective of business growth and of climate impact – lies in enabling businesses to bring climate into payments transactions, including through green debit cards.

Payments companies have the power to make every transaction climate positive

Payments transactions are made all the time. More often than not these transactions are made mindlessly – without any thought of the environmental impact of a purchase. 

So, what if every business brought positive climate impact into the checkout flow for their customers – if every single purchase made contributed to permanent carbon removal? 

And taking it one step further, imagine if this kind of climate positive payment became the default setting for all payments?

It would be game-changing. 

Millions of companies would be working together to remove huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, through their payments flow.

And with payments companies sitting at the very heart of transactions, they have a unique position to drive this kind of positive impact on a vast scale – offering a green payments option to the hundreds or thousands of merchants they work with. 

It’s great for brand differentiation as well – a constant struggle for payments companies. How? Because we already know for a fact that consumers are actively asking for greener payments solutions and so offering this as an option delights customers, leading to increased conversion and customer loyalty.

That's why we're already seeing this kind of payment option from large payments companies like Stripe, Mastercard, and Klarna. And given the number of payments companies out there, there's room for much more.

But what about where consumers manage those payments transactions themselves? 

Enter: the green debit card.

Making climate positive payments personal with green debit cards

Whereas a single consumer may make purchases from a myriad of different retailers using a myriad of different payment solutions, they’re likely to only use 1 or 2 debit cards to make those purchases. 

A debit card account, therefore, gives a much more full picture of the environmental impact of an individual consumer’s spending. 

We also have much more developed relationships with our own debit card accounts (compared with a payments company for a single transaction) – they’re where we are paid our salaries, make monthly budgets, pay bills, transfer money to pay back friends etc – meaning there’s an opportunity to engage consumers with climate impact on a more personalised level, through their debit card account. 

A green debit card, for instance, includes the carbon footprint of each individual purchase to keep climate impact top of mind. 

It could also gather data over time, for instance generating a report of the carbon emissions from a month’s spending. 

These features would, in turn, nudge a consumer into making more considered, conscious purchases in future.

Plus, a green debit card could also go beyond just bringing visibility and education to the impact of our purchases. It could also neutralise the impact of those purchases by including high-quality carbon offsetting. And it could include customers in that by allowing them to choose which project(s) to support on a regular basis.

That’s exactly what green debit card company Tred have launched.

They integrated with our API for carbon offsetting – showing consumers the carbon footprint of their purchases and helping them to offset that footprint on a monthly basis, choosing which of our high-quality projects to support. 


We're expecting to see more and more green debit card options enter the market – alongside other innovative, climate-focused payments products – because it's clear that there's a huge growth and impact opportunity here, that's ripe for the taking.

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