An interview with Tom Ferrier and Neil McVeigh, co-founders of clean tech start-up Green Wallet.
As the world works to battle and heal in the face of the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unique silver linings. The earth is experiencing unforeseen environmental respite as waterways clear, and smog blankets lift; shining a light on how much we can achieve through the power of self-leadership.
However, it would be undue to continue patting ourselves on the back – the positive climate effects of COVID-19 were coincidently caused by wide-scale social lockdowns. On the 5th of April, the United Nation’s Environment Chief, Inger Anderson, warned of the battle ahead in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The visible positive impacts are temporary because they come on the back of tragic economic slow-down and human distress,” says Chief Anderson.
In the coming post-Colonial era, we must not snap back into our old ways. We have an opportunity to reimagine how we consume, spend and contribute to the economy without detriment to the planet – we have been given a clean slate. Chief Anderson told UN News that ‘building a different economy’ is the way forward.
“As the engines of growth begin to rev up again, we need to see how prudent management of nature can be part of this ‘different economy’ that must emerge, one where finance and actions fuel green jobs, green growth and a different way of life, because the health of people and the health of the planet are the same, and both can thrive in equal measure,” says Chief Anderson.
One way we can begin to build this new economy is voting green with our dollars. A company committed to ensuring we snap forward- not back into our old ways is Green Wallet. Awarded the competitive title of Australia’s #1 Clean Tech Start-up in 2019, and a global finalist in WWF’s Impactio competition; Green Wallet is developing a new payment app to help consumers stop climate change.
Green Wallet is an environmental reimagination of Apple and Google Pay. The consumer-facing app cuts through the overwhelm of trying to buy green.
Users pay with the app, knowing that what they purchase in the Green Economy is carbon neutral. Taking the guess work out of your daily essentials such as coffee and groceries, Green Wallet also caters to big-ticket items like home energy and superannuation.When not shopping at a green provider, the app suggests qualified and convenient green providers for next time.
Green Wallet will launch in early 2021, with their innovative concept attracting high profile interest from the likes of Damon Gameau, director of award-winning film 2040, who will be helping support the launch.
The Sydney based start-up is empowering and incentivising mainstream consumers to shop green and achieve meaningful impact to transform an unsustainable economy.
Co-Founder and CEO of Green Wallet, Tom Ferrier research shows us that:
“73 per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change, but many don’t know what they can do, find it too hard, too costly, or they don’t know who to trust,” says Mr Ferrier.
Mr Ferrier, who was the youngest senior IT director at Brambles, has a deep passion for the consumer, understanding that people inherently want to do good, but aren’t sure where to start.
“Bridging the gap between intent and action was holding back solutions to the most pressing problem of our time,” says Mr Ferrier.
“Our research demonstrates that mainstream consumer purchasing behaviours are driven firstly by price, then it is fairly even spread between quality and convenience and coming in at a distant fourth place is green.
“So, to unlock the scale of the mainstream consumer, we need to ensure the cost of quality carbon neutral solutions are in line with their dirty counterparts, and easy to adopt. The great news, in most cases such alternatives exist – going green no longer needs to be about compromise”.
Mr Ferrier believes now is the time to implement Green Wallet’s, ‘new way to pay’.
“We’ve seen a cleaner, less polluted world with COVID-19. The pandemic has presented a unique opportunity as a nation to lead a clean economic resurgence and tackle the next big issue together – climate change” Mr Ferrier says.
Mr Ferrier and Co-Founder Neil McVeigh developed Green Wallet to reimagine consumerism and shift the needle on climate change.
“Consumerism is the root cause for the climate crisis, so for us it became clear. Let’s flip consumerism on its head and make it a force for “good”. We knew that If it was a ‘no brainer’ for all consumers to adopt zero or low carbon alternatives, we can help solve climate change,” says Mr McVeigh.
Green Wallet makes climate action simple, tangible and trackable for impact.
“We’re often criticised for our simplification of this insurmountable problem. This is something I’m personally quite proud of, as one of our core values is to make complex things simple and decision making easy.
“Take the iPhone for example, under the hood it’s one of the most complicated pieces of machinery out there, yet it is so simple to use that even my Mum has mastered it. We want to take this same approach to empower the masses to address the one of the most complicated issues of our time”.
To achieve such an ambitious goal, Green Wallet is merging world-class environmental and behavioural psychology research. Professor Michael Hiscox, part of Harvard University’s Behavioural Insights Group and Director of Harvard’s Sustainability, Accountability, and Transparency Research (STAR) Lab dubbed Green Wallet as a “genuine world first.”
Impressed by Green Wallet Prof. Hiscox joined the team in a formal capacity. His goal – to ensure the solution is so simple and satisfying that it becomes embedded in user’s daily lives.
“The psychology is simple. You download Green Wallet, and in under two minutes you discover your own individual Green Rating by answering simple questions about your lifestyle. We mask all the confusion of carbon footprints, tonnes of CO2 and Paris Agreements, with the same star rating system people see every day on their fridge” says Mr Ferrier.
“While the rating is underpinned with deep scientific complexity, the message for the consumer is simple. “Did you know we can address climate change if we all get our Green Rating to four stars?
How the everyday Australian has a rating of just two stars.
To do create their unique rating system, Green wallet partnered with Alan Pears AM, their environmental advisor who also developed Australia’s Energy Rating Label.
“The same ideas apply”, says Mr McVeigh.
“We know, on average, the different amounts of carbon that’s released into the atmosphere for everything we buy and use. By adding up the carbon from all those things, be it a t-shirt or plane ticket, we know how much total carbon we’re each responsible for. Then we simply translate that into a star rating system, something everyone relates to and understands.
“We no longer get questions from users about whether their footprint is good or bad, we only get asked how they can get to five stars!”
But how can an individual’s star rating contribute to global decarbonisation? Green Wallet breaks down the math to help consumers understand the power of collective action.
“On average, every dollar we spend equates to 300 grams of carbon dioxide pollution. To help stop climate change, everyone needs to reduce their emissions to about three and half tonnes of CO2 per annum; but right now, each of us are responsible for 21 tonnes,” says Mr Ferrier.
“It’s simple, get below about four tonnes and you’re helping stop climate change.”
Where Green Wallet’s star rating is truly revolutionary is its merging of consumption impact (what we buy and use) with financial impact.
“Equally important to what we buy, is how we invest our money. It’s great if you’ve switched to green power at home, but if your super is invested in companies burning coal to power your neighbour’s house, that’s not good,” says Mr McVeigh.
“And it’s not just our super, but who we bank with, and which companies we insure our car and home with. They’re all investing money on your behalf, in most cases investing in dirty industries like coal.
“But if we all switched to greener financial options that invest in renewable energy projects, it would turn off the tap that sees capital supporting dirty energy – this is how you fast track a cleaner future.”
While helping consumers is the focus of Green Wallet, the co-founders have a cunning back-door strategy to further fuel the green economy.
“Post the recent bushfires and pre-corona virus, environment was the top concern for Australians, driving a rapid change in consumer preferences,” says Mr Ferrier.
“This presents a brand and commercial challenge for businesses, by impacting traditional loyalty for those that don’t meet rising customer expectations. We’re establishing a new frontier of consumer loyalty by helping people give meaning to what they buy.”
As more consumers adopt Green Wallet, Green Dollar balances grow and providers adapt their business to access the green economy, momentum will grow to snowball the decarbonisation effort.
“We already have a variety of leading green partners across most sectors who are gearing up for our launch. They see this high-profile collaboration of Australia’s leading brands in sustainability, as a fantastic way to spearhead nation building and a clean economic recovery post Covid-19,” says Mr Ferrier.
It’s refreshing to see the deep commitment to brand authenticity and genuine change that Green Wallet offers.
“In no way would we jeopardise our brand and become the greenwash wallet,” says Mr Ferrier.
Mr McVeigh explains exactly how Green Wallet maintains its brand commit and consumer trust:
“We have designed our app as one platform to consolidate information from many agencies. These agencies either certify the sustainability of a business or set meaningful sustainability goals that businesses can opt to strive for, such as Science Based Targets, Market Forces, Climate Active and B Lab.”
“By relying on these credible third-parties to test and validate the quality of green businesses, we’re removing any conflict of interest from Green Wallet – truly building a solution based on trust and transparency,” Mr McVeigh says.
Green Wallet was recognised by the City of Sydney’s Environment Innovation Grant and is now aligning itself with government climate action plans. Green Wallet has proven how it can accelerate Net Zero initiatives without significant economic disruption or sacrificing the contemporary Australian lifestyle.
Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean recently released the New South Wales Net Zero Stage 1:2020-2030 Plan. In the report, Minister Kean stated:
“Emissions reduction must enhance, not undermine, the prosperity and quality of life enjoyed by the people of New South Wales.”
Mr Ferrier has outlined how Green Wallet can accelerate NSW Net Zero Plan’s second priority: Empowering Consumers to Make Sustainable Choices.
“Green Wallet could help the NSW government fast track their targets for priority two, by empowering consumers to deliver 125 per cent its targets, four years early, while saving their household $1,300 pa,” says Mr Ferrier.
To help shape the future of Green Wallet, Mr Ferrier and Mr McVeigh encourage consumers to join their family of early adopters.
“We are building a cohort of enthusiastic users that are helping to shape Green Wallet into a solution that they love,” says Mr Ferrier.
As our next major societal hurdle rapidly approaches, breathe through your climate-anxiety and take solace in Green Wallet, as the cleantech solution that empowers the individual to stop climate change – they are the ones to watch.
For further information on Green Wallet, sign up here to become an early adopter to help stop climate change.