PrettyLittleThing sponsored Love Island’s Gemma Owen to champion its ‘pre-loved’ fashion marketplace this year, encouraging shoppers to sell clothes rather than throw them away. However, it still expects to launch 956 new fashion items into the hands of hungry consumers this week. Did someone say greenwashing?
It’s one thing to say, ‘Climate change matters; we should all do something about it’. It’s quite another to design your whole business around ESG goals. Especially in fintech, when it’s harder to see our effect on the environment and society.
Some of the Payments Association’s members have tackled this head-on, aligning their businesses with sustainability. Even in fintech, the rules of the game are shifting. Since the 1970s, with a broad purpose of capital value creation, the main focus for business leaders has been to maximise profit to improve shareholder returns. The new game is sustainability, bringing opportunity to differentiate and attract new markets but risking allegations of greenwashing. Or even more challenging – telling investors that returns may be more modest if they are to achieve their ESG goals.
Enter the ‘Sustainability Superheroes’ who have developed superpowers through their journeys and are spearheading the quest to build a more sustainable fintech industry. Our first superhero is the Corporate Development lead at Algbra, an ethical finance app and card service, Ramsey El Dabbagh. He exemplifies the power of fintechs to improve financial inclusion. Algbra guarantees ethical values throughout its investments and funding ventures, enabling it to create value-conscious financial options for society, resulting in outstanding sustainability achievements and commercial success. Faith-based groups are often underserved, and banking is often linked to unsustainable and unethical practices at odds with many individuals’ beliefs. The Algbra team ensures its operations and services are ethical, providing principle-first banking and delivering finance options aligned to growing sustainability-focused customers. These principles are fundamentally intertwined with sustainable development, enabling them to foster a community spirit across their member base.
Our second Sustainability Superhero is Charlie Bronks, Head of ESG at the wholesale foreign exchange and cross-border payments organisation, Crown Agents Bank, which has a unique history of developing emerging and frontier markets. The bank harnesses its networks and deep sector expertise to understand the communities and geographies to transform local economies and provide solutions to push economic inclusion and sustainable development.
Their superpower uses already-established trust with international stakeholders to work with tier one and tier two banks in countries to grow relationships. Crown Agents Bank also partners with mobile network operators to advance technology access. For example, biometric solutions help overcome specific issues around identification in countries such as Rwanda, where many home addresses are not formally recognised. Their integration of sustainability with innovation has enabled local people to open bank accounts without a formal address. This community-focused work directly improves financial inclusion outcomes.
Our third sustainability superhero is Nadia Benaissa, Global Marketing Director at BPCBT, a fintech that embraces local knowledge and partners with experts to contribute to sustainable development. Nadia explains how tailoring solutions to cater to those excluded by traditional banking across diverse urban environments ‘requires long-term partnerships with local governments, NGOs, international development organisations and businesses’. ‘BPCBT has provided the ability to help our clients grow responsibly, and in turn, this has helped BPCBT grow their business’, says Nadia. But adaptation is vital to ensure that ESG efforts shift with society. BCBBT responded to the COVID-19 changes in payments with a greater focus on contactless payments over cash and re-focused on disseminating these technologies to urban areas, blending greater economic mobility with social benefits. While working with Filipino transport agencies to integrate cashless and paperless ticketing systems, the BPCBT team kept vulnerable users in mind, embedding students’ and elderly individuals’ free passes into their cards or phones, thus easing the adoption process.
Finally, we are seeing changes in how executives are incentivised and rewarded to become more sustainable. Our member respondents to EthicsGrade’s 2022 survey for our association show significant plans across the industry to incentivise executives on sustainability and that, on average, seven per cent of discretionary pay is linked to ESG performance amongst our members who responded to the survey.
Rather than doing a few pretty little things to deliver ESG goals, some companies are taking significant steps to walk the ESG talk in payments.