SAN FRANCISCO (6/3/08)--While many credit unions are turning their operations green and encouraging their members to do the same, old habits die hard. Three out of four consumers still cling to their paper statements. A new report released Monday by Javelin Strategy & Research found that green banking habits have yet to take hold. The San Francisco-based firm noted that if every U.S. household stopped receiving paper bills and statements, they would save 687,000 tons of paper every year--enough to circle Earth 239 times. The report found that consumers aren't aware of how they can make a difference, and financial institutions have yet to find incentives that compel consumers to participate. "Most consumers want to do the right thing, but if the process appears confusing or inconvenient, they simply aren't going to bother changing their habits," said Mark Schwanhausser, research analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research. Of the 13 companies mentioned in the report, five are credit unions: Credit Union One of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City; Sound CU, Tacoma, Wash.; Star One CU, Sunnyvale, Calif.; Technology CU, San Jose, Calif.; and Vancouver City Savings CU, Vancouver, B.C. The Green Banking Report's key findings:
* Three out of four consumers receive paper statements; * Of those surveyed, 34% said they switched to electronic statements to reduce their impact on the environment; * 43% said they are more likely to do business with companies they perceive to be green; * 22% said green initiatives cement the bond they have with their bank; * 60% of "green bankers"--consumers who say environmental impact is "extremely important" in purchasing and banking decisions--are women; and * 64% of "skeptics"--consumers who are "very less likely" to be more loyal to their bank because of its environmental activities--are men.
Availability, accessibility and complexity are the key challenges stalling the adoption of green banking behavior, said Javelin. It advised financial institutions to focus on products and promotions that speak directly to environmentally conscious consumers. These include "green audit" calculators to help consumers compute the environmental impact of their banking behavior, a one-stop paper statement shut-off option for all accounts and green banking marketing campaigns that reward consumers for eco-friendly practices.