Investing in our planet: A collaborative approach

June 14, 2023
When it comes to the future wellbeing of our planet, time is not on our side. 

By the end of this decade, we will know whether the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will either be met or missed. In other words, it will be clear if we are on the right track towards creating a stronger, more resilient and more equitable world that will remain fit for human habitation in years to come, or not.

This may appear to be a daunting ambition in the face of the current climate crisis. The timelines seem too short, especially for business leaders looking to balance growth and innovation with sustainable outcomes. The key, however, is to see the path to 2030, and beyond, as a shared enterprise. 

With individuals, companies and organizations all working together toward the same goal, reaching global sustainability targets by the end of the decade looks much more attainable.

This means harnessing the power of communities and citizens through collaboration and collective action to deliver on our responsibility – or even duty – of finding more innovative ways of doing well by doing good, empowering and enabling people to make more conscious choices every day.

Building sustainable communities

As a company serving customers in more than 210 countries and territories, at Mastercard we are aware of the sustainable contributions we can make in the communities we interact with. For instance, as the digital economy expands across the world, we have the opportunity and ability to impact lives at scale – massive scale – by bringing hundreds of millions of people into the digital economy and formal financial systems.

With society becoming ever more decentralized and digitized, it’s our obligation now to narrow the digital divide, ensuring that this growth is inclusive and that vulnerable communities are not left out. We must lower barriers to entry, remove roadblocks and put prosperity within reach.

Five years ago, Mastercard committed to bring 500 million people into the digital economy. We achieved that goal, and by applying our resources, network and partnerships we aim to continue doubling down on this mission by including another 500 million people by 2025, for a total of 1 billion individuals.

From providing digital upskilling to millions of informal workers and small businesses in Southeast Asia, to connecting over 1 million farmers and buyers through our Farm Pass platform in South India that enables them to negotiate the best prices for their produce, our focus remains on how we can empower our network of communities.  

Collaborating for a greener planet

Collaboration, therefore, plays an increasingly important role in our sustainability strategy.

Our Priceless Planet Coalition, for example, unites the efforts of consumers, financial institutions and merchants to take collaborative action and fight climate change. This is done together with climate-science and forest-restoration experts from Conservation International and the World Resources Institute to further scale our forest-restoration work and create collective action for the planet.

Committed to restoring 100 million trees globally, and tracking the impact of this across targeted community, climate, and biodiversity goals, the coalition comprises 18 diverse restoration sites, including five within Asia-Pacific: Australia, Cambodia, China, India and the Philippines.

We chose tree regeneration as it is a cost-effective and powerful way of capturing CO2 and mitigating climate change, especially given the enormous threat of deforestation in some of the world’s most vulnerable areas. 

But the project is not just about planting trees. Rather, we are convinced that big waves start with small ripples. This is about activating the power of our network to inspire mass climate action by sharing our knowledge, experience and technology.

Tapping the collective effort of over 20 partners in Asia-Pacific across seven countries, and nearly 140 partners globally, the coalition is mobilizing people, government officials and local nongovernmental organizations on the ground, while empowering local communities to restore their own land. 

Catalyzing change, one citizen at a time

On a more individual level, we must be focused equally on giving customers and consumers the knowledge and tools they need to be able to make their own positive impact on the planet. 

A good example of this is the Mastercard Carbon Calculator, developed in collaboration with Swedish fintech firm Doconomy, which offers consumers data about the environmental impact of their purchases to enable more sustainable spending and contribute to the environment.

An individual’s carbon footprint is tracked month-by-month across a variety of spending categories so they can better understand where they are having the greatest impact. It is a simple solution, yet one that gives people the tools to make more informed and sustainable purchasing choices every day. 

We have also put solutions into the hands of our customers – literally – with the mission to ensure only payment cards made with sustainable materials are issued on the Mastercard network by 2028, reducing the use of PVC and other first-use plastics, and upping the ante for even more innovation. It’s a relatively small contribution to tackling the problem of global plastic waste, but a necessary one. 

Creating an environment for collective action

These and other projects and initiatives are an indication of how we’re making collective action a shared responsibility. 

It is, of course, on each of us to identify and act on the opportunities before us to drive sustainability efforts with speed and at scale. By bringing others along on the same journey, we are able to innovate in a way that makes sense and “cents” for both our businesses and the planet. It is our collective responsibility not only to take action, but to champion environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, and to encourage and empower others to do the same.

By working collectively with citizens, communities, governments and corporate partners, we can drive more positive change than we would if we each acted alone. Through these coordinated actions, we can work together to invest in the future of our planet, and to leave a sustainable legacy for future generations.

Explore Mastercard's 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance Report to learn more about how the organization is progressing towards its targets to create a more sustainable world for people, prosperity and planet.