Nudging the consumer towards a greener way of life

2 February 2022

A key question regarding climate change boils down to that of responsibility and effectiveness – who should take action to ensure that mankind does not irreversibly harm our planet – governments, businesses or eight billion human beings through their everyday lifestyle choices?

BPCC's green blog:

COP26 – after the party, the fallout
Car fleets, driving to work and ESG
Communicating the Green Imperative within your firm
How green is your office?
The Green Canteen
Remake, remodel - remanufacture?
Nudging the consumer towards a greener way of life

Scale is crucial. A single government decision, taken by the EU, the US, China or India, can have immediate effects on the lives of hundreds of millions. Individual consumers, if left unregulated, will do what’s convenient, or what’s comfortable – only a small percentage is actively aware of how they live and what they consume affects climate change. Businesses can either wait for the regulator – or take pro-active steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities. The second approach is clearly better for our planet.
But how can businesses persuade those they work with to go green?

Doing the rounds on social media is BNP Paribas Bank Polska’s Ekokalkulator (in Polish only), an online questionnaire designed to gauge how green you actually are. It’s a bit of a shocker, especially if you think you’re already taking significant steps to live a sustainable life. The questionnaire asks you to define how you live, eat, keep warm, travel and shop, and on that basis shows how many planets’ worth of resources humanity would need if all eight billion of us were to live like you. It also puts your carbon footprint into a Polish, European and global context.

I spoke to Agnieszka Michalik-Stankowska, BNP Paribas Bank Polska’s CSR and sustainable finance manager, to ask about this and other initiatives the bank is working on to encourage its clients to think more deeply about how their choices are affecting the environment and climate change.

There’s much going on! As well as the Ekokalkulator, the bank’s Polish unit is working on a plug-in to its mobile banking app that assesses how green your spending is – whether you’re buying a long-haul airline ticket, fossil-fuel to power your car – or organic product from a sustainable farm, or second-hand clothing.

Banks have a great influence in their clients’ decisions when it comes to buying a home. By assessing the green credentials of a new development (green-building certification, renewable energy sources etc), BNP Paribas Bank Polska is fine-tuning the cost of mortgage loans. This can work both ways – choose an old, draughty home heated by coal and you’ll be paying more, but choose a home that’s properly insulated, has solar panels and a heat-exchange pump, and the bank will reduce your repayments accordingly (more information about Green Mortage is available here).

Business loans are  scrutinised for their environmental impact. Some investments (for example in coal) will be phased out altogether by 2030, while for most other cases a score-card is  used to determine whether a given loan will have a negative, positive or neutral effect on the environment – and is  priced accordingly.

Banks can no longer afford to be seen by their shareholders as standing idly by while our planet heats up; I can see that competition among them as to who can show a robust, responsible attitude to the issue. HSBC Polska’s deputy CEO, Paweł Kusiak, said at the recent BPCC CEO Briefing event, that medium-sized businesses that fail to take appropriate action to mitigate climate change will find themselves being removed from supply chains.

Certainly, for businesses, ignoring the demands of combatting climate change is no longer an option.

But consumers still make choices in their everyday lives which have devasting effects on the environment, when taken as a whole across the planet’s population. It’s good to see BNP Paribas Bank Polska taking action to raise awareness of its customers as to the consequences of their spending decisions.

The Green Blog by Michael Dembinski

Day 1: BPCC’s green blog on COP 26 in Glasgow
Day 2: Methane emission pledge hailed as success on second day of COP26
Day 3: Coal and climate finance are the focus of the third day of COP26
Day 4: Youth activism flavours fourth day of COP26
Day 7: Barack Obama’s speech highlighted start of second week of COP26
Day 8: Gender equality – focus of eighth day of COP26 – overshadowed by new heat calculation
Day 10&11: China-US ‘breakthrough’ as final statement is hammered out
Summary: COP26 disappoints with the loss of strong commitment