By David Tuck, Kin + Carta Europe, CEO
According to Kin + Carta’s Consumer Research, “81% of people agree that “brands and businesses have a responsibility to do good in the world – not just to maximise their profits.” In short, if you are not matching the expectations of your more ethically-aware customer base, then they will seek out alternatives. And quite possibly call you out. We’ve seen this customer-led, customer-focused change before.
Fintech challengers leads to improving the service for all
Threatened by challengers such as Monzo and Starling, high street banks have been upping their digital offering. These young disruptors brought real – and much needed – innovation to personal finance; a digital-first approach offered both a fresh look, a new approach to customer-led products and a more intuitive user experience. Like all good challengers, they shook things up in a sector that – fairly or not – has a reputation for stuffiness. In recent years though, the household names in the financial services space have become better at doing what brought the challengers fame: a more user friendly, digital experience – and, significantly, they are also better able to offer personalised experiences at scale.
This has meant that the whole sector is now more digitally focused than ever. And while user experience is still front of mind (and never more vital), there needs to be an understanding of the environmental impact that this brave, new digital world has.
Based on what we know about customer perceptions, the next “disruptors” will need to put sustainability at the heart of their offering. Doing so will meet the needs of environmentally conscious consumers now, as well avoiding the inevitable backlash that is brewing as digital sustainability becomes a mainstream discussion. Industry leaders will need to show the way, looking at both the present and future environmental challenges, starting with the footprints that they are leaving behind. Moving forward will mean standing up and taking personal responsibility for this within the business.
When considering digital responsibility, there needs to be a holistic approach. Every digital action has an impact on everything. That includes the people (colleagues and customers), the planet, and ultimately profit. This could be as simple as streamlining communication processes, pivoting towards quality rather than quantity. Or making digital processes easier and more accessible for customers, cutting down on unnecessary steps, reducing the need for multiple touchpoints. This means designing with empathy, not leaving people behind and ensuring that digital products and services are meeting the needs of everyone.
Little changes, big results
Research from Ovo Energy found that we send over 64 million unnecessary emails every single day in Britain. As well as being a waste of time, they’re also a massive waste of energy. If collectively, we were to reply to one less email a day, we could be saving over 16,400 tonnes of carbon a year; the equivalent of 80,000 flights from London to Madrid! Forget about the message at the bottom of an email asking you not to print it, what about stating “please do not reply to this email”? Or if we take it one step further, it is about sending one fewer, to begin with, not cc’ing in as many people; fewer emails and fewer replies. This goes to show that even the smallest changes from an individual, can make a big difference. However, it should not just be down to the individual. Such change needs to be led from the top of organisations, elevating it to a collective responsibility. Responsibility needs to be baked into a business strategy so that it doesn’t just pay lip service to challenges such as sustainability, but takes an active lead, all while taking customers along on that journey.
This is happening, get involved
Our digital carbon footprints are currently overlooked because by and large, sustainability is perceived mainly in its most tangible sense – recycling, reducing waste, cutting out palm oil. We’re living in an age of activist generations though, and customers will increasingly be looking at all aspects of your business. It is therefore important to place your sustainable messaging, and offering, at the very centre of what you do; attracting this new ethical consumer, while also ensuring that that usability and functionality are not adversely impacted. Ethical player, Triodos Bank has capitalised on this consumer tide towards transparency and sustainability, offering their customers full visibility over the type of organisations they are lending to while also being wholly committed to their values. To date, it has loaned £8.2bn to ‘projects across Europe benefiting people and the planet.’ Triodos Bank’s success demonstrates that it is possible that the financial sector can have a positive impact when it comes to sustainability.
The banking and finance world often gets a lot of criticism for only looking out for itself. Taking corporate responsibility when it comes to digital practices can really make a significant difference, while also raising the bottom line. We have seen how the industry can be disrupted, and it can be shaken up again by a new wave of digitally sustainable organisations looking to do better, while also reflecting the values of the world around them. Will you be taking those first steps, and not replying to that email?