Ethical Performance
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Tennant changes direction to pursue credit card idea

October 2008

A leading SRI figure of the past two decades has left the sector to head a credit card loyalty scheme to combat climate change.

Tessa Tennant has become executive chair of the International Credit Establishment (ICE), a business she co-founded to help credit card companies run carbon offset programmes linked to customers’ spending on high-impact items such as air travel.

Tennant co-founded the UK’s first equity investment fund for sustainable development in 1988, was head of SRI at three investment management firms – Henderson, Jupiter, and NPI – and co-founder and chair of the UK Social Investment Forum.

In 2001 she co-founded the Hong Kong-based Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia, of which she was the first chair, and in 2003 received the prestigious Sustainability Leadership Award.

More recently she was involved in setting up the Carbon Disclosure Project and has been active in the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative and on the board of the US-based Calvert funds.

Tennant has conceded that her new role is ‘a bit of a shift away from SRI’ but says it will still involve her in ‘financial innovation for sustainability’.

ICE guides credit card companies in calculating their customers’ carbon footprints based on their spending on certain items, and then offers those customers the chance to offset. Its first client, Rabobank, already has 1.1 million customers in the Netherlands with ICE-serviced Climate Cards.

Tennant said she is aware of the limitations of carbon offsetting but one of ICE’s main activities was to inform customers of the carbon cost of their purchases. ‘It’s about making people’s cards into carbon counters and helping the card issuers educate their customers. Yes, there is carbon offsetting involved, and I know loads of people think that’s just a con, but actually we’ve got to help people partly offset their impacts and also to understand better how to bring their carbon footprint down. And that’s what we think can start to happen through a credit card loyalty programme.’

Tessa Tennant | Global | Climate change

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