Why Earth Day matters more than ever

April 22, 2020 | By Kristina Kloberdanz

On March 11, after six arduous days of climbing, I reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Along with my fellow climbers, I had the rare opportunity to be fully immersed in the power and beauty of nature: I traveled from rain forests to glaciers, was at the liberty of Mother Nature, and witnessed the most breathtaking sunrise over the snowcapped summit. The experience, which helped raise over $140,000 for programs to help young people build sustainable livelihoods, reinforced my deeply held belief that our planet is worth protecting.

The reverie of the trip was shattered, however, when we descended and learned that the novel coronavirus had morphed into a global pandemic and people all over the world were preparing to shelter in place. I raced home, unsure what the coming weeks would look like.

And yet, as this challenging period unfolds, I see opportunities for hope especially when it comes to the environment. While COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on us personally and economically, the forced time out has been incredibly beneficial to the health of the planet. This Earth Day there are fewer cars on the road and planes in the skies. As a result, carbon emission rates are due to fall at least temporarily.

If this time last year world leaders had suggested everyone stay indoors for the day to help reduce emissions, no one would have done it. The trade-offs seemed too great. But now that we have seen that we are capable of coming together in times of deep crisis, we can no longer afford to think small about climate action.

At Mastercard, we have always taken our commitment to environmental stewardship seriously and we will continue to do so. As of today, we are joining RE100, a coalition of influential businesses working toward zero carbon emissions. As part of this effort led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, we are committing to continue to purchase 100% renewable electricity for our global operations. In the coming years, we will work to increase leadership in renewable energy procurement by enabling the development of new renewable electricity generation.

We also believe in running our company as transparently as possible. COVID-19 has shown that corporations need to build continuity and resiliency into their operations. And while the current issue is a pandemic, companies also need to further integrate climate change into their everyday thinking, be it in its approach to governance, strategy, risk management or measuring progress. To that end, we are committed to undertaking the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures for enhancing our climate disclosures.

The way we can really shake things up is by getting our network involved too. Mastercard connects banks and merchants to enable transactions for our customers in more than 150 currencies and in more than 210 countries and territories. This January, we launched the Priceless Planet Coalition, a platform to unite corporate sustainability efforts of our partners to preserve the environment. Together we are pledging to plant 100 million trees over five years.

And when we empower our customers to enact change, there’s no stopping them. Last year, we teamed up with Swedish fintech Doconomy so that Mastercard issuers can offer cardholders the ability to track and understand their carbon footprint based on purchases made. Just as smartphones or wearables have encouraged us to take 10,000 steps per day, we believe that quantifying our carbon footprint will be highly motivating to make more sustainable purchasing decisions.

If nothing else, this pandemic has proven that our individual behavior really does matter. As we log one more day sheltering in place, we are helping flatten the curve a little bit more.

Photo of Kristina Kloberdanz
Kristina Kloberdanz, Chief sustainability officer, mastercard