How a Swedish bank is helping us understand the true cost of our purchases

It’s often hard to view banks as anything other than corporate money-hungry beasts, but one financial institution in Sweden is changing things for the better. And not just for the banking category, but for the good of the planet. An incredible innovation by The Bank of Aland is using the power of its financial data and tools to help its customers understand the true cost of their consumption habits.

Combining a mix of data sets including merchant codes, financial risk data and carbon pricing set by the World Bank, they have created the Aland Index together with Mastercard and KPMG.  The Aland Index calculates the environmental impact of every purchase made on a customer’s credit card (which is made out of biodegradable materials by the way). A Monthly Impact Report is provided which analyses spending behaviour, along with the opportunity to offset impact, through options like contributing funds towards local or government initiatives. 

Beyond the personal impact, the Aland Index is importantly also helping the broader community of the Aland Islands. The Aland Islands are surrounded by one of the world’s most polluted seas – the Baltic Sea. Unsustainable factory farming of pigs, cattle and poultry has led to tons of industrial waste poured into its vulnerable marine ecosystem. In one alarming instance in 2010, an unprecedented amount of potentially toxic algae bloom covered almost 377,000 square kilometres, an area larger than all of Germany. An estimated 85 million people live around the Baltic Sea coastline including those from Sweden, Finland and Poland, and it’s considered one of the priority areas currently under environmental threat by the WWF.

Within the last year, not only have 2.5M transactions been indexed, but the Bank of Aland have also been invited to UN conferences for climate change and generated €380, 000 of environmental funding. And it hopefully won’t end here. The technology is now being offered up to other banks to take on board, opening up an exciting invitation for worldwide change.