Sustainability isn’t core to our business in the sense that we’re not solving for sustainability. But we are asking ourselves if we’re running our business responsibly. We’re finding ways to use this position to advance the transition to sustainability and financial inclusion.
Anna Kratova – Director, Sustainability at Mambu
The world of work is changing in more ways than one. Sustainability represents one of the most significant challenges and opportunities of our time, and businesses hold in their hands the power to affect positive change through what they do – and how they do it.
At TravelPerk, we’re lucky to work with thousands of incredible companies around the world. Many of them are making strides towards building a sustainable future through their business models, values, practices, and daily activities. We caught up with Mambu – a SaaS cloud banking provider helping banks transition to a digital core – to learn more about how they are integrating sustainability into their business and why that works for them.
A spotlight on Mambu
Mambu was founded in 2011 by Frederik Pfisterer, Eugene Danilkis, and Sofia Nunes who initially developed a technical infrastructure for microfinanciers in Africa. During a university assignment on micro-lending and after contacting banks in emerging African countries, the founders realized that the operating systems banks were using were outdated, non-existent, or too complex for micro loans, which was impairing financial inclusion. They decided to bring banking to places where it wasn’t available through traditional means, and what started out as a university project grew into a company mission that lays the foundation for everything the business does today.
Fast-forward to today, and Mambu is a unicorn company bringing better banking experiences to millions of people. By providing a modern cloud banking platform, Mambu empowers banks and other financial institutions to build banking products and services that improve people’s financial lives.
Mambu also sits at the intersection of digital technology, innovation, and the financial sector.
By building on its extensive partner ecosystem and technical capabilities within it, Mambu can help develop bespoke sustainable finance products to help banks better understand what they’re financing, take action, and drape that into better projects. Sustainable finance services like impact accounts, green mortgages, green loans, and green savings accounts are becoming an expectation among consumers where 75% of accounts will be owned by a generation with a completely different relationship to money in this decade.
Tackling climate change within the banking industry
When you think of industries that emit high amounts of carbon, banking generally isn’t one of them. That’s because we’re often used to considering Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, and historically, banking has been excluded from that conversation.
Scope 1: direct emissions from company-controlled resources – i.e. emissions released as a direct result of a specific set of activities
Scope 2: indirect, owned emissions from the generation of purchased energy like electricity, steam, heat, and cooling
Scope 3: indirect, not owned emissions linked to a company’s operations
It’s true that the emissions from banks seem to be fairly low if you think about it. The main volume of these emissions comes from the energy required to run an office or send professionals out on business trips. But the real emissions within the banking sector come from what exactly it is that they finance. What do they enable with the money they provide? Does that money flow to activities that sustain the environment or that are harmful to it?
This is the core of the conversation surrounding emissions within banking, and it’s a topic that only started to be discussed 3-4 years ago. It links directly to one of the sector’s primary pain points – a lack of understanding and knowledge about how to start calculating the impact and footprint of their portfolios. Automation, lack of tools, inadequate methodologies, and massive data are just a few of the challenges that the sector faces in solving this issue.
Insights on becoming a more sustainable business
When businesses are faced with the question “why should we bother with sustainability?”, the answer is simple. Because there is no business on a dead planet. That’s why the industry, and indeed all industries, need to move away from this question and turn matters of sustainability into an imperative. After decades of voluntary sustainability action, we’ve run out of time to afford to deliberate about the business case for sustainability. We are now in a period where it’s a matter of necessity.
Historically, there have been leaders in corporate sustainability – both sectors and individual companies – who have advanced sustainability and integrated it early in their business either because of consumer or regulatory pressure or because of their visionary leadership. The fintech sector, however, is relatively new to the topic and we’re just starting to see sustainability action.
Mambu is one example of a fintech company that is trying to integrate sustainability into its business from the get-go. What lessons can you apply to your business to follow in Mambu’s (non-carbon) footprint?
Maintaining the right balance
It’s also important to maintain the balance here. You often find companies talking about the positive impact while leaving their negative impact virtually out of the picture. In actuality, for many businesses, it should be the other way around. You should start by looking at your negative impact and build a strategy around reducing that first. This is what Mambu did, and that informed their roadmap and strategy for the short, medium, and long term.
Placing value on employee well-being
Enabling employees to make a positive impact outside their daily work is another pillar of their sustainability work and one that looks at enhancing positive impacts. Employees are given benefits like a donation budget and time off to volunteer. For example, since the start of 2022, the company has donated nearly EUR 200K to charities working on various social impact causes and collectively spent more than 300 hours on volunteering activities in the community.
Tackling sustainable and impact finance
Another key area of focus for Mambu sits within the context of the broader banking industry. They have a strong focus on sustainable and impact finance, aiming to help the industry turn solutions like these into the norm and make the sustainability transition faster and smoother. The company places a lot of focus on financial inclusion as a key driver of their impact finance work and is looking into ways to support that more structurally through commitments from the full organization. This connects quite clearly to their core business value and mission to make banking more accessible to those who haven’t traditionally been able to attain it.
Putting Mambu’s sustainability vision into practice
What tactics did Mambu deploy to become a sustainable business?
- Completed a thorough sustainability self-assessment
The team at Mambu took a long, hard look in the mirror and analyzed what they were doing well, and importantly, where they could improve. They asked themselves “where are we having the most significant negative impact? Where can we make the biggest positive contribution?” This laid the foundation for their entire strategy and subsequent actions – and should form the basis for any business trying to understand how to become more sustainable. Without this, you’re just poking in the dark or wasting corporate resources on incremental changes.
- Brought sustainability up to the C-level
At Mambu, C-level executives are all part of a corporate social responsibility and sustainability committee. Raising sustainability as a key issue on the C-level agenda is what raises Mambu’s initiatives away from “nice-to-have” recycling initiatives and towards projects that can really move the needle in terms of managing negative and positive impacts.
- Focusing on awareness & learning
Getting their community involved is a top priority for Mambu. How do they do that? Through a sustainability program founded on transparency that takes employees on their sustainability transformation path, taps into common values, and involves them in decision-making.
What specific initiatives did Mambu implement to get the ball rolling?
- Launched a sustainability knowledge center
Mambu has rolled out a sustainability course to all its employees including executive leadership, created a dedicated Slack channel that acts as a lively forum for anyone to share sustainability ideas and news and discuss decisions and initiatives, and has even opened up an extensive knowledge library.
- Developed a green travel incentivization program
Recognizing that there is still a strong need for colleagues to meet in person, Mambu decided to look into ways to incentivize environmentally friendly options in geographies where it is feasible. With the help of TravelPerk’s GreenPerk API, Mambu is able to track how employees travel and draw informed conclusions about where they can reduce their travel-related carbon footprint, and take action. Mambu admits that they are not on track to meet their travel reduction targets as folks seek to make the most out of being able to meet in person again after a two-year COVID break.
However, they are seeing a relative 1,22% increase in train travel since the introduction of the Travel Policy in January 2022, and a 23-fold increase in the targeted Amsterdam-London destination which comprises the majority of their travel in Europe. This is an illustration of how an internal fiscal incentive and individual action meet in the middle for a positive outcome.
- Making coding more sustainable
As a cloud-based business, coding is at the heart of Mambu’s operations. That’s why the company places so much emphasis on developing a roadmap to make sure that the way they code does not guzzle energy and generate excessive emissions.
Everything we do today has an impact on tomorrow. Deciding where we want to work, how we want to live and how we consume has a compounding effect on our joint future: for better or for worse. As Mambuvians, we are proud to be part of the solution which is why we work continually at shaping our mindset and practices around sustainability
Eugene Danilkis – CEO & Co-founder at Mambu