How Green was my Loyalty?

Green Digital Loyalty Progamme
Global Recycling Day

In this inextricably interconnected world of ours, a growing global awareness of the need to prioritise sustainability and protect the environment has become non-negotiable. No longer can there be any excuse for not knowing the importance of using our resources as responsibly as we can – and of course, minimising and managing waste.

Increasingly known as the Seventh Resource, waste needs to be seen as exactly that – the by-product of progress. As has been proved, the Seventh Resource presents as much opportunity for responsible re-use as it does for crisis in its mis-use. Which is why, as environmental advocacy gathers momentum, Global Recycling Day is receiving deservedly more prominence with each passing year.

This year, the Global Recycling Foundation is recycling, if you will, an idea begun in 2021, called Recycling Heroes. The initiative recognises individuals, cities and businesses who effect positive change through active recycling and through promoting environmental awareness.

At Bink, Global Recycling Day is yet another timely reminder of our collective responsibility as businesses to protect the environment. And whilst tech might appear to be far removed from the everyday issues of waste management and recycling, the correct application of technology can have far-reaching positive consequences. Because, whilst recycling is a critical component of waste management, reducing waste from the get-go is ultimately the most preferred solution. In this respect, the Bink payment linked solution is actively playing its part in greening the loyalty space.    

According to a recent poll by YouGov, an estimated 77% of adults in the UK are members of at least one loyalty programme (although a quick glance inside the wallet would suggest that for many of us, that figure is several times higher). Given that adults comprise three-quarters of the total population in the UK, let’s assume this figure to be around 50 million people – roughly 50 million loyalty cards. Taking the weight of the average plastic card as being approximately 5 grammes, if we were to very simply extrapolate this, we could estimate the combined weight of these 50 million loyalty cards to be roughly a little over 250 tons of plastic.

So imagine therefore, if all these adult loyalty members in the UK were to switch to digitally powered loyalty programmes such as those offered by Bink, how quickly we could reach a situation where every plastic loyalty card could be eliminated, thus preventing 250 tons of plastic from becoming part of the Seventh Resource in the first place.  

Another example worth examining is that of paper stamp cards. And although the move towards app-driven stamp loyalty has increased exponentially over the past decade, the impact of paper stamp cards on the environment is still worth noting.

Purely for the purposes of illustrating this point, let’s take the example of Costa Coffee, As Britain’s largest purveyor of coffee-to-go, Costa currently has over six million app users in its loyalty offering, Costa Club. Rewinding back to the days before apps – and surprisingly, it’s not actually so long ago – let’s imagine a scenario where all app users were still on paper stamp cards. We can begin by assuming that a paper stamp card could be the approximate equivalent of a business card. A batch of 250 business cards, printed on 350gsm, has an approximate weight of 380g. Again, by very simply extrapolating this figure against that of Costa Club’s total app usership, we quickly reach a figure of 9.1 tonnes of paper – this being just for each member’s first stamp card. This example highlights just how much of a difference a brand such as Costa Coffee can make to the environment, simply by making its loyalty offering digital.

The urgency of switching over to a more sustainable form of customer engagement – such as that offered by Bink’s smart technology – cannot be overstated. According to a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), less than 45% of plastic generated in the UK is recycled. Plastics consist of a myriad different varieties, which are grouped into seven specific categories. Each of these requires different recycling processes. After two or three rounds of recycling, the quality of the plastic diminishes, rendering it unusable. And what of paper? Whilst this is undoubtedly one of the most recycled resources, up to 20% of paper and card used in the UK every year still finds its way to a landfill. Even the relatively modest contribution made by eliminating the use of paper stamp cards could still improve that figure dramatically.

Alongside these very real environmental concerns, brands need to consider the impact of their activities on their ability to attract and retain customers. According to a report compiled by Access Development, some 60% of brand-loyal consumers consider social responsibility to be key reason for their continued loyalty. Amongst customers in the Gen Z category, this figure is closer to 66%. Of these, 34% of customers sited environmental issues as being a deciding factor in their brand loyalty.

 The conspicuous absence of a plastic card – or even the less environmentally offensive paper stamp card – within a loyalty offering, could help play a significant part in directly aligning a brand’s environmental ethos to its customer engagement. Having occupied such a significant position in promoting brand awareness, digital loyalty can play a heroic role in this respect.

On Global Recycling Day, let’s start by greening our wallets – one less loyalty card at a time.

Green Digital Loyalty Progamme Global Recycling Day