Making money work for people and planet
More and more people are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact and live in a more sustainable way. Bringing the UK’s first green debit card to market, Leeds-based fintech company Tred is leading the way with its carbon tracking and offsetting solution. Here, we speak to Co-Founder Will Smith to find out how banking with Tred funds reforestation and enables customers to become more carbon conscious.
As we hurtle towards a future where the impact of climate change becomes only too real, demand for innovative solutions to the crisis looks set to rise exponentially.
This basic assumption is at the heart of the company behind the UK’s first green debit card – Tred.
The Leeds-based green fintech was born out of a conversation around the dinner table between friends who were discussing how their lifestyles were harmful to the planet.
One of the diners that night was Will Smith, who established Tred with his business partner Peter Kirby in 2019.
Will recalls: “One of my friends said to me, “I can’t believe you’ve got a plastic straw in your drink – it’s bad for the environment”.
“To be clear, they had flown in from London that morning and so we got into the whole discussion around what is worse for the planet and found that, actually, it’s really difficult to know.
“People are trying to live more sustainably as an overarching sentiment, but what does that actually mean, what should you do and where should you focus your time?”
The lack of straightforward answers to these basic questions prompted Will and Peter to brainstorm ideas and create a better way for people to track their carbon footprint.
“We landed on tracking spending data because it’s the most scalable, transferable way,” says Will. “It’s difficult to think of anything that impacts your carbon footprint as much as what you buy.”
Using its customer’s spending data to calculate the carbon cost of every purchase is at the heart of Tred’s business model.
It is a brave new world for Will and Peter, who both previously worked in engineering and operations.
Will continues: “Neither of us are from the financial industry but I think that’s a positive because we question why things are the way they are, which is really beneficial for us because we’re learning a lot and uncovering opportunities.”
Like every other major sector, the financial industry is currently trying to figure out how to be part of the solution and not the problem where climate change is concerned.
Tred, however, is the first company to have figured out how to bring sustainability to debit card and banking services.
“We are setting the direction, which is kind of daunting but also exciting,” says Will. “In ten years, I think all the big institutions will be do what we’re doing.
“It’s just a question of how they do it and when.”
Banking with Tred
Tred is currently developing an open banking app to which customers can connect all of their credit and debit cards, giving them a full view of their carbon footprint.
Once cards are linked up, the Tred app will then analyse every transaction, placing each into one of 602 categories and overlaying lifestyle specific and vendor specific information to generate CO2 emissions data for every time you buy groceries, order something online or pay for a flight.
An example would be a vegetarian spending £50 on groceries at Tesco, generating X kilograms of CO2.
“The key thing for us at the moment is to make sure that it’s usable and insightful,” says Will.
Alongside its carbon tracking app, Tred has teamed up with Singapore-based payments company Nium to develop the UK’s first green debit card.
Made out of recycled plastic, the Tred card funds reforestation as well as telling customers the carbon cost of their purchases.
Will explains: “We use the revenue generated from card transactions to plant trees, so, every time you tap your card, you help us reforest the planet.
“It’s super ethical and you don’t necessarily need to be green or eco-focused, it’s just a nice benefit to have.”
Using revenues for reforestation is not the only way Tred is helping customers offset their impact.
The company also offers a carbon offsetting service that dynamically adjusts the amount customers have to pay each month to offset their emissions.
Will says: “If you have an economical month, we won’t have to offset very much. If you have a month where you’re flying around everywhere, we will have to offset more.
“It changes as your lifestyle changes.”
The future of Tred
At the time of writing, Will and the team are preparing to issue the first Tred cards to their eager and growing number of customers after raising over £900,000 on Crowdcube.
Headcount at the company’s HQ in Leeds has quadrupled since the beginning of the year, with more hires expected as customer onboarding ramps up in the coming months.
Will’s underlying assumption for the business is that demand for its innovative products and services will only grow over time as the need for solutions to the climate crisis intensifies.
His advice to other green start-ups hoping to drive the sustainability agenda forward is to speak to as many people as possible, make sure you know what problem you’re solving and keep things simple and usable for your customers.
He says: “The key thing for us is to have validation of what you are doing first. Make sure the thing you think could be a business actually can be.
“The quicker you can get confidence that you’ve got a good idea, the better.”
- Tred was launched in 2019 by two friends who met at university. Neither had previously worked in the financial industry, but this helped them gain a new perspective
- Tred helps customers track, reduce and offset their carbon emissions: https://www.tred.earth/
- Partnering with Nium to create the UK’s first green debit card, Tred will use revenues generated from card transactions to fund reforestation: https://www.tred.earth/card
- Tred has raised over £900,000 on the alternative investment platform for high growth start-ups, Crowdcube: https://www.crowdcube.com/
- For more inspirational business content, head over to the UMi platform: https://www.weareumi.co.uk/webapp/