From words to action: How European collaboration is leading the road towards a more sustainable tomorrow for payments

December 14, 2021 | By Mark Barnett

When Angela Merkel addressed attendees of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) last month, her message on climate was clear: “we are not yet where we need to be”. The words of the, now former, German chancellor – who celebrated her 67th birthday in April – echoed those cried by teenage activists rallying outside the event and leading scientists providing lectures to those inside. The evidence was clear: anxiety towards the climate crisis transcends generations, promises are no longer enough, and more urgent action is needed.

At Mastercard, we were proud to be able to back up our commitments with both action and results. Several years ago, we were the first in the payments industry to set science-based targets to focus our efforts against climate change and, back in January, we built on that to foundation by committing to reach net zero emissions. Our progress has been such that we are now able to accelerate our roadmap by a decade, from 2050 to 2040. This is a bold step but one necessary to support the United Nations Business Ambition for a 1.5°C future.

This is an ambition rooted in Europe – the home of the EU Green Deal, of which we are a supporter, and a region that has always led from the front on sustainability. Sustainability has always been part of our DNA and – through collaboration and partnership with Europe’s most pioneering financial institutions and fintechs – we have been able to scale our sustainable solutions in the region and lead our industry into an era of action. In short, we are working in Europe to build a future that encourages people to spend sustainably and play their part in helping the planet, however great or small.

Opening doors for Europeans to pay sustainably

One solution that embodies this ethos is the Mastercard Carbon Calculator. Initially launched in April, in partnership with Swedish fintech Doconomy, the Carbon Calculator was designed to provide eco-conscious consumers with a simple way to access insights that detail the carbon impact of their spending. It is a solution born in Europe and, in recent months, we have taken the next step in rolling the feature out in financial institutions across the region – including ekko (originating in the UK), Gránit Bank (Hungary), and Sberbank (Russia) – and in the Latin American market. 

Elsewhere across Europe, we have been working with our regional partners to roll out solutions that enable green payments. In the last month alone, we have launched: the Mastercard Wildlife Card with DSK Bank (Bulgaria) to support the preservation of biodiversity; fast donation terminals in the Teatro Real (Spain) for visitors to easily donate to environmental causes; and announced a green debit card, made from recycled plastics, with Tred (UK).

All of these initiatives contribute to our wider goal of encouraging tangible, environmental action by those who use our 2.9 billion cards across the globe. Our research finds that 85% of consumers are willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability challenges and so, as we move into 2022, we will continue to make this possible by introducing innovative solutions in the 61 countries that we serve across Europe.

Building the foundations of a better tomorrow in Europe

Ultimately, we believe that the only sustainable growth is inclusive growth. This requires building a more connected region where everyone has equal access to a better life and more resources. As a leading presence in Europe, we understand our responsibility to lead from front and contribute to the long-term infrastructure that will shape a better tomorrow for the region, its business, and its people.

It was this message that underpinned the decision to take the next step of our sustainable journey in September when we announced the Global Sustainability Innovation Lab in Stockholm, Sweden. Our vision is for the Lab to become a hub for innovation, collaboration, and the development of solutions that will contribute to a more sustainable future for Europe, as well as across the globe. This Europe region is the birthplace of some of the world’s most exciting green start-ups and – by providing access to our network and technology – the Lab will become a workshop for innovators to come together and co-create environmentally friendly solutions that unite businesses and consumers in climate action.

This conveyor belt of innovation is underpinned by our Priceless Planet Coalition, a collaborative pledge – in partnership with forest restoration partners Conservation International and World Resources Institute – to preserve the environment through the restoration of 100 million trees over five years. With an expanding list of European partners joining the agreement, the Coalition represents a uniting of the region’s merchants, banks, cities and consumers in support of a healthy planet.

As we face a critical moment in the climate battle – within which our next move can dictate the fate of the next generation – leading companies and governments must embrace their responsibility and lead from the front. Through collaborating with Europe’s most exciting innovators we have made great progress in recent years, but we know this is just the start. What counts is what comes next, and we commit to continuously evolving our leadership to shape an inclusive, sustainable, and secure future for European payments.

Photo of Mark Barnett
Mark Barnett, President Europe, Mastercard

Media Contacts

Jim Issokson , SVP, Communications, Europe