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August 22, 2022

Point Carbon Zero: playing safe while trying to save the world

Sustainability is becoming a fintech mainstay, with initiatives launching across the globe.

Sustainability is emerging as a safe bet for fintech players, with bold new initiatives encouraging its spread through the industry globally. Momentum ratcheted up a notch last month with the launch of the Point Carbon Zero programme in Singapore.

The goal of the joint initiative by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Google Cloud, a cloud computing service provider, is to drive the innovation, incubation and scaling of climate fintech solutions in Asia.

This entails a collaboration under Project Greenprint, a project MAS launched in December 2020. This seeks to use climate fintech solutions to bolster financial sector access to accurate and granular climate-related data, for more efficient deployment of capital towards green and sustainable projects.

In support of Point Carbon Zero, Google Cloud will launch one of the world’s first open-source cloud platforms dedicated to climate finance, to facilitate the deployment and adoption of these climate fintech solutions.

Collaborative efforts

One local bank that expects to participate in the initiative is DBS Singapore, which has already worked with both MAS and Google Cloud on sustainability initiatives. One such initiative was the launch of an accelerator in co-operation with Google, the Sustaintech Xcelerator, whose first cycle focused on monitoring, reporting and validation.

All parties have experience in this area. MAS, for example, has already undertaken a major fintech drive in creating APIX, an open-architecture platform that supports financial innovation and inclusion globally. Meanwhile, Google Cloud has leveraged its own platforms and cloud storage with programmes such as Geo for Good, an initiative that helps non-profits, scientists and others to leverage mapping technology.

“The biggest friction, when it comes to any nascent space, is getting started,” says Bidyut Dumra, DBS Bank group head of innovation. “Programmes such as these are the much-needed grease to the wheels. There’s mentorship, funding and access to data.

“I’m very optimistic,” he adds. “Any action in this space is good action for co-creation and amplifying a solution.”

The key features of the Point Carbon Zero programme are mentorship and funding, providing access to data, as well as managing carbon footprints and facilitating data sharing.

Singapore can also boast other fintech endeavours. For instance, Singaporean insurer Singlife with Aviva is to become an official signatory of the United Nations’ Principles for Sustainable Insurance.

The PSI act as the global sustainability framework of the UN’s Environment Programme Finance Initiative. First launched in 2012, this purports to be the largest collaborative programme between the UN and the insurance industry addressing environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities.

Sustainability in Asia and beyond

Focus on sustainability in Asia will be stepping up next month when the National Payments Corporation of India, the Fintech Convergence Council and the Payment Council of India will host Global Fintech Fest in Mumbai, whose theme is based around creating a sustainable financial world. The event’s supporters include National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, Startup India and Reserve Bank Innovation Hub.

In Europe last month, Spain’s CaixaBank launched its Climate Risk Unit to underpin its own commitment to sustainability. The aim is for the bank to decarbonise its own activity, and that of its customers, through a sustainable business and management model that includes climate risk in its analysis of customers and operations.

Meanwhile, global ESG modelling and analytics platform BlueOnion has signalled its own commitment by appointing Dr Jeanne Ng as its chief sustainability officer. Ng has more than 30 years’ experience in the environmental consulting and corporate sustainability fields, and is one of Hong Kong’s leading experts in air and greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

Fintech now accounts for more than 50 per cent of all start-up investments globally, but climate fintech is still something of a fledgling sub-segment, according to the F10 Climate Fintech report.

However, as much of the world focuses on the perils of inflation, rising interest rates and a changing climate, fintech globally is pushing ahead with its own endeavours to cut waste and increase sustainability, for which it should be commended.

An earlier version of this article appeared in The Banker.

A service from the Financial Times