The inevitable shift of payment methods: the challenge of credit cards

In a world in search of sustainable solutions, the banking sector, a cornerstone of our modern life, cannot ignore the significant environmental impact of its activities. The credit card must address this challenge on two fronts. First, because it is made of precious materials and plastics and must evolve to minimize its carbon footprint. Second, because it represents the last tangible link between the bank and its customer. This small rectangle carries the image, values, and commitment of its issuer.

Antoine Laronze-Groine

Antoine Laronze-Groine

Phygital Payment Directeur

In February 2023, I joined Linxens as the Director of "Phygital" and "Responsible" Solutions after spending over 15 years at a global leader in payments, occupying various marketing and innovation roles. I had the chance to be involved in all the migrations that have reshaped the payment card industry, from EMV to contactless and digitalization. I am supporting the revolution in financial services by developing disruptive experiences that make people's lives secure, responsible, and simple.

However, with more than 3.5 billion credit cards issuedworldwide each year, the industry generates more than 500,000 tons of CO2. To put this in perspective, this amount of greenhouse gas is equivalent to more than 300,000 round trips between Paris and New York.The challenges are numerous, but industry innovators are working hard to reinvent every aspect of the banking value chain. The time for indifference is over; it's time to act.

From conception…

Initial efforts have focused on the use of recycled plastic in card production, a significant first step in reducing the carbon footprint by up to nearly 5% (equivalent to 7g of carbon per card) compared to cards made from virgin plastic. Banks such as BBVA, Santander, and HSBC have been moving in this direction for several years. More recently, Mastercard has committed to eliminating the use of virgin PVC by 2028.
The industry has also begun to use plastics recovered from ocean debris, especially in the areas where the credit cards are being produced. Wood, an inherently environmentally friendly material, is also beingused, with recent technological advancements allowing to produce cards made entirely of wood and free of plastic.
However, key issues remain, such as the localization of production and personalization units, the traceability of raw materials, and the development of fully recyclable materials derived from biological sources.

To usage

In terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), there is still much to be done regarding the use of the card, which offers infinitely greater possibilities compared to traditional payment methods such as cash or checks. Through the use of the card, the banking industry has made significant progress in creating services that meet new specific needs, offering issuers and fintech companies a world of opportunities to differentiate themselves and go even further in their commitment.
To achieve this, they are also turning to new players, known as "climtech," to help them develop original services. For example, the Swedish startup Doconomy proposes to set limits on the carbon impact of purchases, the Luxembourg bank Raiffeisen has already planted nearly 62,000 trees financed by its clients' transactions, and numerous initiatives are emerging around an ethical current account (for example, one that does not finance fossil fuels). These features aim to unite customers around a common environmental goal, and a market that is still in its early stages.