As world leaders meet in Glasgow this week to find solutions to the planet’s ever-growing climate crisis, a new report has been released by Reconnaissance International, a leading source of business intelligence on currency, optical and digital document security, personal identification, authentication and brand protection, about the cash industry’s quest to improve the environmental sustainability of cash.
The new report, titled Cash: A Roadmap to Sustainability, examines how the industry has been making changes in the past years toward more sustainable solutions for how cash is made and distributed.
The Environmental Impact of Cash
The report states, “Cash cycles around the world are complex, serving virtually every person on the planet. Their environmental impact depends on a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to the efficiency of the denominational structure, the durability of the cash used, the issuers’ clean note and recirculation policies, how modern the infrastructure is and how well it is maintained, whether cash logistics are optimised, the geographic circumstances, the extent to which cash is used versus other payments, and also the extent to which renewable energy sources are used.”
The most utilized study of cash’s environmental impact was reported by the Dutch National Bank (DNB) in 2018. The DNB paper “showed that each cash transaction created 4.6g of CO2e. When we consider that a 40g bar of milk chocolate generates 200g CO2e, or a transaction based on distributed ledger technology such as bitcoin uses about 279g CO2e on average, perhaps the figure for cash is not such a big number.”
Moving Toward Sustainability
For the report Reconnaissance spoke with businesses and looked at over a hundred case studies about the issue. When it came to ways that these organizations are making small and large changes toward sustainability, examples ranged “from the simple (changing to LED lighting) to the more complex (changing from single use plastic seals to cloth bags) to those based on major investment decisions (putting in solar power or investing in different equipment).
“Some changes were entirely within the control of the organisation while others required co-operation with others. Some involved changes to materials, needing extensive trials. Others required process changes and others still for staff to work differently. Some were corporate decisions, others were implementing staff suggestions. Across the cash cycle, there are examples of what can be done for every size of organisation, with small and large budgets, quick and long term, whichever country you are in.”
These changes, big and small, are important for an industry that fuels how we pay for goods and services worldwide. As John Winchcombe, editor of the report wrote in the foreword, “Cash is, perhaps, the world’s most used global product. Despite digitalisation, cash is, and will remain, a key component of the payments eco-system, itself a driver of economic activity as well as social inclusion. But in addition to being a key and universal tool for payments, cash needs – along with all other components of modern life – to be sustainable as well.”