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The Priceless Planet Coalition Is Betting On Reforestation For The Win

Photo from Mekht

Plastic is the material most commonly associated with credit cards, but Mastercard wants people to think more about wood – as in trees. Last year, the company launched the Priceless Planet Coalition, its mission is to reduce carbon emissions and the related, devastating effects they have on the climate through forest restoration efforts. Restoring and maintaining forests is a significant weapon in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. Trees can store a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide – 10 trees for example – can remove around 1,000 kg CO2 over a five-year period.

The Priceless Planet Coalition’s prime objective is to plant 100 million trees around the world by 2025. “If we plant 100 million trees and allow them to grow, that would go a long way to limit climate change,” Richard Wormald, Mastercard’s Australasia Division President, explained to dynamicbusiness.com. To achieve this goal, Mastercard is enlisting municipalities, merchants, banks, consumers, and even its competitors to participate in the coalition. This “big umbrella” approach is all about, in the words of Mr. Wormald, “leveraging the power of the collective to make a bigger difference than we could do on our own.” 

Photo: Andreas Gücklhorn

A crucial component in making its mission a reality is the coalition’s partnership with Conservation International (CI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), who will assist in establishing Priceless Planet Coalition’s best practices along with implementing long-term monitoring of the forest restoration projects. Both are globally renowned, highly-experienced environmental organizations. Since 1987, CI has worked in over 70 countries to protect land and water ecosystems. Similarly, WRI has spent four decades involved in projects that defend the planet’s natural resources while also improving people’s lives.

The Priceless Planet Coalition’s 100 million tree project concerns more than just combating carbon emissions. The coalition and its advisors are targeting geographic areas, such as Kenya and Brazil, where reforestation can deliver the most productive effects to communities as well as tackling climate change. Trees provide many natural benefits to communities, from helping to retain groundwater and prevent soil erosion to providing sources of food, which offers both nutritional (items to eat) and economic (items that can be sold) value. 

The public’s long-growing concerns over carbon emissions experienced a marked increase during the Covid pandemic. In a recent worldwide Mastercard-commissioned survey, more than half of the participants stated they now place greater importance on reducing their carbon footprint, and over 60 percent of those surveyed felt that companies must act in more environmentally friendly ways. 

Mastercard’s eco-friendly efforts extend beyond the Priceless Planet Coalition. The company recently unveiled its Carbon Calculator, which allows people to get data on the carbon emissions created by their purchases. “We think that by helping people understand their own individual footprint they can then make choices on how to modify their individual impact,” Mr. Wormald told dynamicbusiness.com. The calculator, which banks can integrate into their apps, also provides consumers with information (like carbon emission-free absorption ratios), sustainability tips, and ways to contribute to forest restoration projects.   

Mastercard began 2021 by pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.  

One initial step in this pledge is decarbonizing its own operations through such energy efficiency moves as using more solar panels in its data centers, which currently accounts for over half of the company’s energy usage (it should be noted that all Mastercard-own U.S. properties are fitted with solar panels). Mastercard also aims to improve the sustainability programs among its suppliers since over 70 percent of the credit card company’s total carbon footprint is linked to supply chain emissions. Additionally, Mastercard is exploring other methods to lower its GHG numbers, such as becoming involved in carbon removal programs.

And then there’s “plastic” – the material synonymous with credit cards. Mastercard has been at the forefront of creating more environmentally healthy credit cards that utilize cleaner plastics. In 2018, it joined with three card-makers to create the Greener Payments Partnership, which has worked to cut down on first-use PVC plastic in card manufacturing. “We want to help banks offer more eco-friendly cards to consumers, and we are taking concrete steps to bring about that change,” states Ajay Bhalla, president of Cyber & Intelligence, Mastercard. “This way, everyone benefits – it’s better for the environment, it’s better for business and it meets evolving consumer needs.”  
Towards this end, the company’s research has found sustainable plastics to replace the first-use PVC commonly utilized in credit cards. Mastercard currently offers sustainable cards, made from recyclable, bio-sourced, chlorine-free, degradable, and ocean plastics, to financial institutions for its credit cards. With 100 million trees and bio-sourced credit cards, MasterCard is moving the needle on priceless.

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