Shaping a sustainable future together

January 19, 2023 | By Shehryar Ali
As more and more consumers become focused on reducing their carbon footprint, sustainability has risen to the top of the economic agenda globally.

According to a global consumer survey commissioned by Mastercard, consumers are now demanding that brands be more sustainable. In Africa alone, 9 in 10 people said that they’re willing to take individual action to combat environmental and sustainability issues, making this a key focus area for governments and businesses.

Among the many actions that can help, reforestation is widely considered to be one of the most impactful and cost-effective ways to positively counteract climate change. This has also informed our sustainability agenda, and in 2020, Mastercard launched the Priceless Planet Coalition, uniting the efforts of consumers, financial institutions, merchants, and cities to fight climate change through the restoration of 100 million trees by 2025.

The Coalition is not only focused on planting trees, but on re-growing forests in places with the greatest need and the most potential to have a positive impact on climate, community, and biodiversity goals. Restoration partners like Conservation International and World Resources Institute, are guiding these efforts by employing rigorous science-based best practices to identify new project sites, select the appropriate tree species and ensure long-term forest health through ongoing monitoring.

Over 100 partners globally are now part of the Priceless Planet Coalition, including sustainably minded merchants, fintechs and global banks. In Sub-Saharan Africa we have welcomed Paramount Bank in Kenya, Albaraka Bank in Sudan, Premier Bank in Somalia, NMB Bank Plc in Tanzania, Faisal Islamic Bank in Sudan, and Salaam African Bank in Djibouti. Each partner is helping to support the forest restoration through consumer engagement and donation campaigns that encourage people to take climate-friendly actions or make direct contributions.

In addition to ecological and climate impact benefits, the work of the Coalition is also creating social benefits and providing economic opportunities for communities and people who take part in the long-term stewardship of these restored forests, farms, and other landscapes.

Living up to our aim to be a force for good, we have been vocal on our stance on sustainability and fighting climate change. The past two years' events have been unprecedented from a health and safety perspective, bringing significant lifestyle changes, and also embedding a hyper-awareness of our environment and how it impacts those around us. People already burdened by poverty often suffer the harshest consequences as a result of climate change, while having the least ability to cope. Climate change could devastate the economies of these vulnerable regions.

But there is good news for some of these vulnerable regions. In Africa, the Coalition plans to plant 2 million trees in Madagascar, 1.25 million trees in Malawi and 1 million trees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These trees will include a mix of native species, which will enable the soil to retain more water. These kind of sustainable reforestation projects help reduce the occurrence of climate-related disasters, such as fires and flooding, and help with air and water filtration besides providing habitat for wildlife.

There is no blanket approach to tackling climate change. Each business approach will depend on its industry and strategy. Experts agree that the corporate sector has a crucial role to play in reaching the 1.5° C goal as called for in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.  Some businesses are ready to act, others are already scaling up efforts. For its part, we at Mastercard have made climate change and protecting the environment our business.

The future of our people, our planet, and the economy are inextricably linked. This means we are all in the sustainability business and should all commit ourselves to ensure policy and change are implemented. As a business community, let’s bear a collective sense of responsibility to shape a sustainable future.

Photo of Shehryar Ali
Shehryar Ali, Country Manager, East Africa