Major Bank Launches ‘Carbon Footprint Tracker’ to Crack Down on Meat & Dairy Purchases

A major British multinational bank has launched a new “carbon footprint tracker” that monitors customers’ spending in order to crack down on purchases of meat and dairy products.

The system, launched by London-based NatWest Bank, scolds customers when they buy meat and dairy products and suggests their food purchases are causing “climate change.”

As part of NatWest’s smartphone banking app, users receive messages when they are caught buying traditionally farmed produce.

They are also urged to “swap out” items such as beef and milk with “alternatives” such as “non-dairy” or “plant-based” products.

The app pressures customers to take part in “veggie Mondays” and warns they should be “choosing (mostly) plant-based” diets to fight “global warming” by reducing their so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The alert messages also recommend eating “vegetarian at home” to reduce your “carbon footprint” by 40kg.

By “swapping out beef,” the app alleges an individual could reduce their “carbon footprint” by 12kg.

In addition, users are urged to try adding tofu, lentils, and other “alternatives” to their diets as substitutes for eating meat.

The bank doesn’t draw the line at food, however, and seeks to push the green agenda into all aspects of its customers’ spending.

The app also suggests buying “more second-hand clothes” and taking “fewer flights” in order to comply with the “Net Zero” targets of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Additional warning messages from the bank tell customers to switch off tumble dryers, share car journeys, and wash their clothes in cold water.

Users can also “opt-in” to receive a “monthly carbon score,” which the bank already tracks as default.

However, the move has angered British farmers with its push to crack down on red meat and to replace dairy products with “plant-based alternatives.”

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The UK’s National Farmer’s Union (NFU) has criticized NatWest for promoting “oversimplified” messages that “miss the nuance of the path to a sustainable food system.”

David Barton, chair of the NFU Livestock Board said:

“We have been working closely with NatWest about messaging on its ‘carbon tracker’ in its customer app.”

“What we eat is a personal choice and should be made in an informed way,” Barton added.

“We are continuing our conversations with the bank about the nutritional and biodiversity benefits eating meat provides as currently the app’s tracker only focuses primarily on greenhouse gas emissions.”

He added: “We understand that the NatWest app is primarily focusing on [greenhouse gas] emissions, but the reality is that when making diet-related recommendations, other factors such as nutrition, environment, and biodiversity must be presented.”

Following months of back-and-forth, the bank agreed to change the wording on its app following a pushback from the farming industry.

However, the NFU believes this change is not significant enough.

A recommendation to buy local, British produce has been added by the bank following pressure from the NFU.

The NFU says the British meat and dairy industry is among the most sustainable in the world.

The UK’s beef “emissions” are less than half the global average.

Barton added:  “Despite this disappointment, I am pleased to see some changes being made to the ‘carbon tracker’ on its personal banking app, following NFU’s engagement with NatWest at a senior level over several months.

“I am also pleased that conversations are still ongoing between the NFU and NatWest on how best to communicate the benefits of meat to the bank’s customers.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said:

“It is positive to see NatWest’s willingness to learn, and we are committed to continuing to work with the banking sector to ensure they fully understand and work alongside the agriculture sector when it comes to reducing emissions and supporting resilient, sustainable businesses.”

A NatWest spokesman said:

“At NatWest, we have championed farming for nearly 300 years and we are one of the largest lenders to the sector, committing £6.7bn of funding to support farmers to fund climate and sustainability-related projects.

“The transition to a low carbon economy is a topic of interest to many customers and sectors, including farming and agriculture.

“We will continue to support our customers in their sustainability journeys.

“The carbon tracker is an optional feature that customers have told us is valuable, but we always listen to stakeholder feedback and continue to look for ways to improve.”

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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