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Implementing a customer-centric climate action experience. A golden-green moment for card issuers

​Among consumers, environmental concerns are becoming more prevalent, and sustainability now rivals conventional factors such as price and brand as influencers of consumer shopping choices1

​Although consumers are increasingly aware of the climate impact of their everyday consumption, banks (and FinTechs) in general have missed out on helping their customers do something about it. But how do you as a bank go about offering a customer-centric sustainability service to your customers? It will as a minimum require taking four simple steps.

​Validate your concept!

1. Much can be done before you even start thinking about  implementing a new service into your mobile banking app. Often, issuers are inspired by the wealth of services being offered to them on an almost daily basis and it is only natural that some ideas will stand out so check that your intended concept and partner is covering an area that is relevant to your customers with a solution that addresses a true need validated by independent research.

When validating the concept behind Nets Climate Action Service, we began by looking at macro-level data to confirm our hypothesis that consumers in general are concerned with climate change and that banks were missing out on helping their customers achieve an important personal ambition.

We soon found that even in forerunner regions like in the Nordics, banks generally score low on consumer trust in their commitment to sustainability2 In Denmark, 37% of Danes register as having a distinctly negative view of their bank’s support for a sustainable future3 and the picture doesn’t look prettier elsewhere. In Italy, Spain, Poland, and the UK, up to 30% of consumers are inclined to switch banks due to environmental issues. Meanwhile on a European level, one in four customers is likely to switch banks if their bank is not engaged in environmental and social issues (ESG)4.
​Author/source: {attribution}

​Tony Bach Christensen is an experienced technology and payments industry expert. As the Product Proposition Partnerships Lead at Nets Issuer & eSecurity Services (IeS), Tony heads off Nets IeS’ partner initiatives for commercial & product development through global and local strategic partnerships.

​A real problem

We also found evidence that consumers really want to do something about it.

According to GlobeScan’s 2021 Global Consumer Insights study, “People want to change their behaviors but many feel that governments and companies are not doing their part to make it happen.(…) 34 percent of people claim a lack of support from business as a key barrier and 46 percent of people say that a lack of affordability is also a barrier.”5

Source: GlobeScan, 2021 Global Consumer Insights

During our concept validation phase we were able to not only find independent support for our product hypothesis, but we also found new data that actually framed parts of the solution-to-be.
Clearly, here is an area where you as a bank can stand out and make yourself an attractive issuer to prospective customers as well as forge even stronger ties with your existing base.

The wow! response 

2. You must ensure that your service brings value to your customer and really makes you stand out. Otherwise, why bother? 

Banks put much resource and effort into implementing pure hygiene features into digital banking such as issuing virtual cards and support for Apple Pay, yet these services will not make your customers happier about their choice of bank (but might make them leave if not in place). 


Today, the market is ripe with vendors offering estimates on carbon footprint sometimes coupled with information and advice on how to live in a more sustainable manner. These services do have a role to play as people strive to reduce energy consumption and soften the inflationary pressure on their personal finances. We are now seeing more governments taking over this task as a combined energy crisis and global recession looms on the horizon. We can safely say that due to widespread campaigns and media attention, consumers are no longer ignorant of the fact that they need to live more sustainably, but they do lack help in doing so. 

If your goal is to become a purpose-driven financial institution, or more modestly to be known for your dedication to sustainability, you need to show your customers that you are in this together. No bank is an island, and catering to your customers’ climate ambitions is a win-win situation. 

Recent research6 from Norway shows that consumers must be willing to make dramatic changes in their lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint to a measurable extent. In order for all the good that your customers are doing to have substantial climate impact, these efforts must be backed by other actions and initiatives that are targeted at carbon footprint reductions. While guiding your customer on ways to live more sustainably is an important element to communicate,your messaging is at risk of becoming inherently negative, which may send out signals of what you should do better (shame on you for eating beef rather than beans). Instead, you could be offering your customers a solution to their dilemma of trying to live sustainably and thus adding substance and value to your digital consumer service. 

Today, banks have a golden-green opportunity to help their customers achieve their personal climate action ambitions and at the same time deliver on the promise of sustainable and responsible banking.

Make yourself stand out

We called in research bureau SONAR to conduct a large five-country survey on consumer attitude to our service concept and our overall message that most importantly, taking climate ACTION is the key.

Using the knowledge gathered during concept validation, we were able to tackle the “HOW” question head-on and create a user experience appealing to respondents. On the issue of removing barriers, the automated micro-contributions feature was highly appreciated by respondents as “they emphasize that automatic donations removes a barrier in having to actively take daily action.”7 

75 per cent of respondents wanted to sign up for the service and try it out immediately.

That’s the kind of interest you want to achieve whether promoting your existing banking app or introducing a new card service with a green profile.

Sonar, Concept Validation Study 2021

The survey also revealed that the micro-donations feature built into Nets Climate Action Service had achieved the exact user response we were aiming for: a feeling of affordability. Suddenly, everyone felt they could afford to be conscious of their climate footprint, “If I can pay 3% more for my groceries and actually help the environment in a measurable way then absolutely, I think that would be great.”8

Prototype and UI test. And test. And test…

3. Once you have validated the service concept and you believe you have nailed the right user experience for your target audience, it is a good idea to test it out on a sub-set of target end users. With Nets Climate Action Service, an in-depth end-user survey was conducted by Sunrise to analyse the interaction and response of users to a prototype of the service inside an anonymous bank app. Important information was obtained about design details ranging from the practical onboarding flow to “interesting and catchy” visuals, and how to make the app intuitive and appealing to engage with.

More fundamentally, the survey revealed an increase in the interaction between the user and the service. Users began displaying a deeper engagement with the banking app, requesting more information around the climate topic, and the feeling of a truly valuable banking service was positively reinforced by key features of the solution, “I'm very positive, it doesn't require constant effort and I think it makes sense that you can differentiate for yourself, in which area you consider this to be useful” (Tim, 33 years old, from Germany)9.

As our test results show, user testing is a powerful way of adjusting your service design to achieve higher likelihood of success in terms of user attraction and utilization. You do not merely want your customers to like the service and think of it as a cool feature, you want them to use it and get the feeling that it brings value to them every day – a value that they would not miss out on now that they have it. That way, you generate stickiness and customer loyalty as well as a service that will attract new clients.

Adjust, validate, and… ACTION!

4. It seems almost self-evident, yet this step is not to be skipped if you want to prepare for success. You want your users to have a positive first impression of the new service - both in terms of simplicity, flow, and design – but you may not have the time, resources, and capabilities available to conduct thorough testing. Here, it helps if your partners have done their homework and are able to guide you based on their end-user research and testing so that you may move into piloting with sufficient confidence in the design choices you’ve made.

The Customer Centric sustainability service

Thus, the customer can opt-in to reduce their climate footprint in an automated and controllable manner with duly validated effect. Furthermore, the micro-donation feature coupled with simple user control mechanisms ensure that no one is left in a pinch due to their contribution to carbon reductions.

[1] GlobeScan, Sustainable Living Global Consumer Insights study, October 2021.
[2] Sustainability Brand Index 2022.
[3] Advice Bæredygtighedsbarometer 2021.
[4] Kearney, 2021.
[5] GlobeScan, Sustainable Living Global Consumer Insights study, October 2021.
[6] Steen-Olsen, K.R. Wood, and E.G. Hertwich: The Carbon Footprint of Norwegian Household Consumption 1999-2012. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2020.
[7] Sonar, Concept Validation Study for Nets Group, July 2021.
[8] Mikkel, age 33, Denmark. Sonar, Concept Validation Study for Nets Group, July 2021.
[9] Sonar, Concept Validation Study for Nets Group, July 2021.