How fintech can play a bigger role in tackling climate change

Fintech companies can play a much bigger role in helping combat climate change than they are currently doing, according to the founders of a start-up looking to change the way consumers spend their money.

Will Smith and Peter Kirby have set up Tred.

Peter Kirby and Will Smith have launched Tred, which provides an app and debit card that enables people to measure their carbon footprint.

Mr Smith told The Yorkshire Post: “I personally think that fintech has a huge responsibility. Everything you buy has an impact on the planet.

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“Therefore using that to give people information to help them live more sustainably is so important for the future.”

Will Smith and Peter Kirby met at university over 11 years ago.

Tred uses open banking to help an individual understand their carbon footprint. Users of its card will also contribute to the reforestation of the planet.

The platform takes the consumer’s spend data and converts it into how much carbon dioxide is omitted. It also suggests alternatives to help consumers reduce their carbon footprint.

The two entrepreneurs smashed their crowdfunding target of £400,000 in a matter of hours last week.

Mr Kirby says the global pandemic has brought awareness of climate change to the forefront of people’s minds.

The Tred allows users to track and measure their carbon footprint.

He said: “There’s a huge opportunity here. There’s no doubt that people are more eco conscious right now.

“If you remember we had those early photos last year of clear waters, clear skies, nothing in the air, that kind of stuff. People are very conscious that when we turn it down we can have an impact.”

Both of them believe that people want to make behavioural changes to limit their impact on the environment.

However, quite often people don’t understand how to best do that and existing options for measuring the impact are based on static questionnaires.

Mr Kirby said: “We were looking for a way to do it dynamically. It’s data that’s easy to access and as your habits change, it moves with you.”

There are three factors to tackling climate change, according to Mr Smith. He said: “Climate change is a huge overarching problem and no one has really cracked it. There are basically three pillars to it. One is the individual, one is businesses and one is Government.

“A lot of people are focusing on the Government side of things with Cop 26 coming up, a lot of people are focusing on the business side of things but not many people are focusing on consumers.

“We really narrowed it down and said this is one of the best ways that we think we can help.”

The two entrepreneurs met ten and a half years ago at university. Both of them studied mechanical engineering at Durham together.

Mr Kirby went on to become a consultant specialising in implementing technology changes in industry while Mr Smith has done a lot of work on behavioural change using data bouncing around different FTSE 100 companies before entering the start-up space at a business selling phone cases.

Mr Smith was born in Keighley while Mr Kirby is originally from North Wales.

“We absolutely love Yorkshire and it’s where we want to set down our roots and move into the centre of Leeds,” Mr Smith said. “There’s no aspirations to become a central London start-up.”

Inspired by the rise in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing, the duo also have plans to add an investment management element to Tred.

“The next step is to support people who are putting their money into specifically green funds,” Mr Kirby said. “That’s what we will be doing by the end of this year.”

The straw that spurred the idea

The idea for Tred came late in 2019 when Will Smith was dining in a restaurant and another patron pointed out that he had a plastic straw in his drink.

This spurred a debate between the two as to what the biggest problems are in relation to climate change with the other person having taken a flight that morning. It gave Mr Smith the idea of providing people the tools to identify their biggest contributors to climate change.

Mr Smith says that a lot of people “wanted to live more sustainably but didn’t know where to start”.

He and Peter Kirby started working on Tred last year.

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James Mitchinson