By Arthur Newman
Do you prefer organic food and support local farmers? Do you look beyond pretty packaging to seek out natural beauty products and household cleaners? Do you prefer to buy from companies that support social causes? If so, you are part of the majority of American consumers who are becoming socially and environmentally conscious shoppers. While this ethos has become commonplace in consumer goods, it is about time that the same scrutiny be applied to consumer financial products. Credit cards, those incredibly useful and ubiquitous rectangles of plastic, are an excellent starting point, particularly when you are seeking your first card. Look beyond the financial fine print to see if your credit card company shares your values.
While most credit cards work the same way, there are substantial differences in their commitment to social good. Your benefits can extend beyond airline miles and cash-back, which are often minimal and unsatisfying. Not surprisingly, a recent study showed most consumers place little value on traditional reward programs. Instead, consider a socially responsible credit card that gives back to a cause you support. Additionally, consider the environmental damage caused by the roughly 500 million credit and debit cards that end up in dumps each year – that’s a lot of plastic that will remain long after most of your purchases. Make a difference by getting a biodegradable credit card. It will not dissolve in your wallet, but once cut up and buried it will decompose. Finally, look into the issuing bank’s record on sustainability initiatives and social programs. Do their values coincide with yours?
Currently there are a limited number of credit cards tied to social causes and only one biodegradable credit card. Maybe the options are limited because banks underestimate the demand. It is up to consumers to drive change in this category, just as they have in consumer products. Not so many years ago, organic food was a fringe category, but last year Whole Foods had over $12 Billion in revenue. You can help drive a new revolution with your choice. Let your first credit card really matter.
About the author: Penn alumnus and eco-entrepreneur Arthur Newman is founder and CEO Sustain:Green. He combined his background in finance, green technology, and carbon markets with a passion for sustainable living to create the Sustain Green MasterCard®, biodegradable credit cards that reduce the cardholder’s carbon footprint with every purchase, while additionally funding rainforest preservation. Newman is now re-launching Carbon Rally, an information rich web-based gamification platform designed to reduce your CO2 footprint and save you money through individual and group challenges.