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Citibank Proves Profitability of Going Green with Paperless Initiative

Posted Oct 20 2008 7:16am

During my first few weeks as a founding expert here at Keyboard Culture, I wrote that the quest to go green in the consumer marketplace (and thus score an important victory in the battle against global warming) necessitates  two key steps:

1) Enabling consumers to create their own demand for green products and services; and

2) Making the effort cultural

Simply stated, the environmental community faces something of a chicken-and-egg scenario in going green but market leaders such as Citibank are helping advance the dialog through broad efforts such as paperless initiatives. Operating in a manner which encourages customers and vendors to obtain their account statements exclusively over the Internet and pay their bills in the same manner, we can chip away at entrenched practices.

I am somewhat embarrassed to share that despite my passion for environmental causes, I resisted paperless statements from Citibank and other financial providers for many years. Because I also work in the information technology field, I had just as many technical reasons as I did emotional ones but it wasn’t until I had been an Internet power user for nearly a decade that I went fully paperless with my monthly bills.

The good news is that most financial services providers now offer paperless options, not always for the same reasons but the results are the same. Just look at the results which Citibank achieved with its credit card customers in the first 18 months of its cultural shift toward 100% acceptance of paperless statements:

• 1.8 million trees planted

• 6,800 trees saved thus

• helping make 14 national forests greener

Citibank is far from perfect, persisting in dirty lending practices to resource extraction projects in emerging nations (and we must continue to advocate for an end to such loans). Nevertheless, there can be no denying that customers of the credit card division of Citibank are experiencing a cultural shift, one which helps expand their comfort zone with respect to paperless billing statements and thus making them more open to doing business the same way with their electrical utility or their local tax directorate or other entity with whom they conduct commerce.

I commend Citibank and encourage its peers to emulate the mission statement listed below. It constitutes a very solid beginning for one of the world’s largest financial services institutions.

"We’re on a global mission. Citi is committed to directing $50 billion over the next 10 years to address global climate change through investments, financings and related activities to support the commercialization and growth of alternative energy and clean technology among the clients and markets it serves, as well as within its own businesses and operations."

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler


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