Money Moves

Charitable credit

by Agnes Chan

Fresh innovation turns retail therapy into green generosity

HSBC launches Hong Kong's first green credit card as part of the bank's continuous efforts in environmental protection Photo: Johnny Kwok

Earlier in April a revolution took place in Hong Kong's credit card industry as HSBC launched its first "green" credit card. Environmentally sound, the card is made of chlorine-free material and no paper statements will ever arrive in customers' mailboxes in order to save trees.

As part of this initiative, HSBC will donate a sum equivalent to 0.1 per cent of the cardholder's spending on the green credit card to the HSBC Green Roof for Schools programme, which aims to create green outdoor classrooms for teachers and students. A total of 10 schools have been selected as the pilot for this project.

The plan is a result of collaboration between the HSBC Group and the University of Hong Kong (HKU). With a HK$5 million investment, the project aims to reduce school building temperatures and combat the "urban heat island effect", a phenomenon occurring when urban temperatures rise above average temperatures in surrounding rural areas.

According to Louisa Cheang, head of personal financial services, Hong Kong, HSBC, the green credit card and the Green Roof for Schools programme complement the bank's unwavering commitment to protecting the environment. "By spending with this card, customers will contribute to a meaningful cause. As the leader in credit card markets, we can take advantage of this project to bring the green message to cardholders and encourage them to protect the environment," Ms Cheang notes.

Raising awareness

To promote this green concept, a 90-metre long green panel built with plants has been installed at the "travellator" linking Central MTR and Hong Kong MTR stations, while a six-metre green logo and various 1.5-metre grass sculptures decorate busy spots in Causeway Bay. Actor and environmental campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio was also invited to launch the green credit card here in Hong Kong.

Unlike other standard PVC credit cards, the green credit card is made of PET G, a material without chlorine and other toxic chemicals. "The magnetic films on credit cards age in three to five years. As cardholders change cards, the green disused cards will degrade without emission of harmful substances," explains Ms Cheang.

The fabrication cost of this credit card is 15 to 20 per cent higher than that of other PVC credit cards. "The initiative will obviously increase HSBC's overall costs incurred during the manufacturing process, in addition to the costs derived from conducting market research and the outlay from subsequent donations related to cardholders' consumption," says Ms Cheang. "However, the main aim is to raise awareness about environmental protection so in essence, the investment is well worth it."

Customers with an annual income of more than HK$250,000 are eligible to apply for the green credit card. "We position the green credit card at a platinum card level because our market research shows this group of customers is most prone to support environmental protection in this way," Ms Cheang remarks.

Growing benefits

The advantages of green roofs are plentiful. "Green roofs reduce heat absorption and lower the temperatures of rooms below. Cooler rooms mean air conditioners can be turned down to save electricity. Plants on green roofs also absorb dust particles and harmful air pollutants to improve the surrounding air quality," explains C Y Jim, chair professor, Department of Geography at HKU. Seen from above, green roofs offer a picturesque panorama for nearby residents and office workers. In the schools themselves, green roofs also serve as educational resources. Students can learn about natural habitats and the importance of environmental protection.

The Green Roof for Schools Programme is one of the many corporate social responsibility projects HSBC has sponsored. "Protecting the environment is an ongoing process," stresses Ms Cheang. "HSBC invests heavily in green projects." Indeed, HSBC was the first bank to achieve carbon neutrality in late 2005 and in May 2007, the bank launched a five-year US$100 million HSBC Climate Partnership with four world-class environmental charities to reduce the impact of climate change on people, forests, water and cities. On the macro scale, since its inception in 1981, the HongKong Bank Foundation has committed more than HK$765 million to charitable causes.

For cardholders, the benefits stretch beyond the notion of feeling good about "spending green". On top of the existing platinum card offers and benefits, discounts will be offered at designated green merchants alongside rewards points redeemable for environmentally friendly products or services at a preferential rate. "We are working with merchants to provide privileges to our cardholders. Customers can then help protect the environment through consumption in their daily life," says Ms Cheang.

More schools may be invited to participate in the Green Roof Project after the successful pilot. "This is just a starting point. To achieve our long-term goal, we will continue to collaborate with HKU to build more green roofs," Ms Cheang concludes.

Spending and supporting

  • HSBC donates to schools for every dollar spent
  • 10 schools receive green roof gardens
  • Project expected to expand

Taken from Career Times 13 June 2008, p. A3
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