Businesses including Barclays Bank US, HSBC and Frontier Airlines have joined the Priceless Planet Coalition – an initiative set up by MasterCard to reforest more than 100 million trees.
The Coalition was set up in January and its model involves helping business members to tie tree planting to their existing rewards schemes for customers and staff, or to set up new rewards systems with this function.
Initially, trees would be planted any time a customer purchased goods or services from Transport for London, American Airlines, the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority, Saks Fifth Avenue or L.L. Bean using a MasterCard, CitiBank, Santander UK or Banq card.
With the new member companies, eligible cards now also include Barclays Bank US, Associated Bank, First Hawaiian Bank, HSBC, EuroBank and ScotiaBank. Companies including Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Emirates and WESTBahn have signed up from the other side of the initiative. A one-off direct donation function has also been added to Mastercard’s donation platform and will be added to a new mobile app in the coming weeks.
Conservation International and the World Resources Institute (WRI) will help the Coalition identify and deliver forest restoration projects. The first three projects will begin in 2021 in Kenya, Brazil and Australia.
The Coalition believes it will reach its 100 million trees target by 2025. It is taking advice from Conservation International, the WRI and a new advisory panel to ensure that tree planting delivers the intended climate, biodiversity and social sustainability impacts without generating unintended negative consequences. Advisory panels include former international climate negotiators Bo Lidegaard and Todd Stern and Brazil’s former Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.
“Through the Priceless Planet Coalition, we are empowering our global network of partners and consumers – who share our commitment to being a force for good in the world – to unite in action and create exponential impact for the environment,” Mastercard’s chief digital officer Jorn Lambert said.
To Lambert’s point on consumer habits, a study late last year by Neilsen found that almost three-quarters (73%) of consumers globally were ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ planning to change their purchasing habits with the environment in mind.
While less than one-fifth said they would achieve this by buying less, most respondents agreed – in principle – with supporting companies with lower environmental footprints and ambitious commitments relating to ethics, carbon, energy and waste.
Taking note of these trends, Mastercard has taken several steps to make its sustainability strategy more visible in recent times. The company launched a new initiative to get its customers to switch to cards made from recycled, biodegradable and ocean plastics this summer, for example. Since then, it has collaborated with Swedish fintech startup Doconomy, which is creating an app that lets users calculate the environmental footprint of their spending habits.
In related news, the Woodland Trust has this week unveiled a new ambition of planting 50 million trees in the UK over the next five years. In comparison, it planted four million trees in 2019.
The conservation charity is sending more than 600,000 trees to community groups and schools in the next six weeks to start work towards this target and has set up an “emergency tree fund” with £1m. The fund will support local authorities, which will also provide their own funding, to launch or scale up reforestation or afforestation schemes in their local areas.
Up to 12 councils will benefit from the fund in the first instance. The Woodland Trust has said it will explore ways to extend this initiative if these pilots prove successful.
Other sources of funding for the campaign will include the People’s Postcode Lottery. The Lottery is also running communications urging participants to plant their own trees and to write to their MP to ask for stricter national legislation on forest protection and creation.
“A year on from many big promises and statements about the need for more trees in order to achieve carbon net-zero by 2050, they mainly remain just that, words,” the Woodland Trust’s chief executive Darren Moorcroft said.