Challenger banks leading the way in sustainability

Glenn Gillis looks at the role challenger banks have in the search for a greener world and the role gamification has in changing attitudes

Concerns about climate change are influencing consumer choices more than ever, with nearly three-quarters of Britons anxious about global warming. As sustainability becomes a top priority for customers, 92% of them are more willing to trust a business that supports action on environmental issues. This is shaping trends in the financial sector; a recent report found that 67% of customers want their bank to be more sustainable.

Traditional banks are recognising the need to respond to this shift, but for challenger banks, such as Monzo and Starling, integrating sustainability and innovation has been the driving force behind success. If the rest of the sector is to follow suit and compete with challenger banks, they need to bring all stakeholders (including employees and customers) on this sustainability-driven journey with them. Innovative approaches such as well-executed uses of games and gamification can be part of these strategies.

Sustainability as a mindset

Challenger banks have been leading the way in the sustainable finance movement by demonstrating that ESG-based investing alone is no longer enough. Instead, sustainability requires a fundamental shift in mindset across the organisation, from top-level executives to employees and customers. Such a shift necessitates behavioural change in delivery, operation and overall success.

Customers won’t simply trust that a bank is acting sustainably, they need to see and be a part of it too

Many practical steps can be taken to make sustainability a part of a company’s DNA: For example, embracing technology, such as cloud-based infrastructure, which reduces carbon footprints and emissions by up to 95%. However, beyond green technologies, companies must strive to drive behavioural change across the entire organisation.

Empowering behavioural change through gamification

One of the key challenges in the finance sector is motivating top-level individuals to incorporate sustainable practices day to day in a profit-driven system. Yet, to fully integrate sustainability, all employees must see it as a priority, and act accordingly. Communication and training are vital in overcoming any resistance to change or unconscious beliefs, and this is where innovative approaches such as gamification come into play.

Gamification can be a powerful tool in training stakeholders; it is an enjoyable and rewarding experience which can drive long-term change across organisations. It applies game mechanics and logic to engage and motivate users, and through this process of learning they are encouraged to adopt new behaviours, including those which put the environment first.

One example of gamification driving sustainability is a recent collaboration with a financial institution in the UK to enhance its financial services training platform. The goal was to eliminate the potential for box-ticking, sloganeering, and greenwashing in the financial industry, providing sustainable financial skills training to drive impactful transformation in the UK’s banking sector. Such an approach leads to meaningful change and can be adapted to various organisations.

Engaging customers in the sustainability journey

Externally, gamification and sustainability-driven processes also have a role to play in challenger banks’ success; for them, sustainability is not just an internal matter, it is also about engaging with their customers about sustainability goals and embarking on their own journey. Customers want to feel they are actively involved in the process of their bank making a positive difference to the environment and society. Remember, customers won’t simply trust that a bank is acting sustainably, they need to see and be a part of it too.

To achieve this kind of engagement and connection, communication is key to bringing consumers along, and gamification can help facilitate this process. Using gamified tools, banks can empower customers to feel involved in sustainability-driven transformation. For example, they can offer a carbon footprint calculator that allows customers to track and understand their carbon footprint based on their banking decisions. After initial calculations, the tools could give users suggestions for how to shift their own behaviour to create a positive impact in the world in line with the actions of their bank. By using tools that make customers feel involved, companies can gain consumer trust and positive brand association.

Sustainability and beyond

Challenger banks have revealed that embracing sustainability cannot be just a fad or be given lip service not backed by actions. By integrating sustainability into their core values to meet shifting consumer demands, they have been driving a wave of disruption across the wider industry. To remain competitive, traditional banks must take note and take action.

To do so, a fundamental shift in mindset needs to be adopted business wide. Banks should therefore be encouraged to look to innovative and effective approaches, such as gamification, to communicate change with key stakeholders and their wider customer community, which is vital for success in a future with growing consumer demand for climate change mitigation and sustainable businesses.

Glenn Gillis is CEO of Sea Monster   

Glenn Gillis

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