Building societies are nothing without their communities. This has always been the case for the sector, widely lauded for its personalized and cooperative approach to banking and customer service. The challenge building societies face now is maintaining that level of commitment to their communities, whilst incorporating greener strategies and climate-friendly services for members. With the energy crisis in full swing, as well as the ongoing threats of climate change, how can the mutual sector flourish in times of wavering consumer confidence?
In October 2021 the ONS reported that ¾ of adults in Great Britain are worried about climate change, a figure which has likely rocketed in the turbulent months since. With this shift in outlook comes an inevitable reshuffle of consumer priorities:
- What’s my building society doing to help the planet?
- Are there better alternatives at other mutual financial institutions?
- How can I play my part?
This increasing expectation of businesses to “do their bit”, paired with the younger generation’s demand for streamlined, lightspeed access to all of their information and products, leaves directors and executives little choice in the ESG sphere. Despite sounding slightly intimidating, this is exactly the sort of challenge to catalyse cross-county membership and push building societies further into the public eye as responsible, forward-thinking financial institutions. Is it possible to accelerate member growth and engage generations in such a way?
To approach that question it’s important to acknowledge the work already being done by building societies to build their customer base through climate friendly strategies.
Keeping track of your carbon footprint is important in tackling your personal impact on the planet. That’s why building societies like The Cumberland have partnered with the likes of Cogo, a New Zealand fintech that provides carbon-tracking software for customers to monitor how green their finances are. Through collaboration and honest investigation into their own practices, building societies can reach untapped demographics looking for a more climate-conscious set of financial products.
“We’re excited to be partnered with Cogo as it aligns perfectly with our core purpose: helping people understand how they can positively impact the environment and be kinder to the planet”
Des Moore, CEO, The Cumberland
Skipton Building Society recently announced it would remove their plastic passbook wallets from all 88 of their branches in favour of a new 100% recycled card alternative. A small change that is on track to save close to a ton of plastic in ten years time. External initiatives like this can and will compliment the grander aims of the mutual sector. When you add internal offsets, company-wide education and a more hands-on approach to marketing your greener offerings, membership is bound to increase.
“We know that small changes really do add up”
Stacey Dickens, Head of Sustainability, Skipton Building Society
As with most aspects of financial services, especially one as community-driven as the mutual sector, the need to provide balance between purpose and execution is key. With the concept of greenwashing running amok in the press recently, it’s up to building societies to set the best possible example. With a savings account, you set a goal, put measure into action to avoid veering from that goal and, ideally, reach it and continue. Just as you can never have too much money saved, businesses can never do too much for the planet.