The magnitude of a product is quite telling when its name is coined as a verb: ‘Snap him’, ‘Google this’, ‘Revolut me’. The UK-headquartered fintech firm, launched in 2015, holds upwards of 15 million users worldwide. I award Revolut a one-star rating, mostly because they are overly ambiguous regarding their sustainable goals. They do not discuss how they plan to better the sustainable practices within the company and have not explained what their involvement in the 'Tech Zero' taskforce entails. Revolut does not explicitly discuss their plan to respond to evolving climate risks, nor discuss opportunities in green finance, and they do not articulate their sustainable approach. They are, however, a fully operational mobile bank that responds to ESG concerns in a very broad sense. As such, they deserve a one-star rating.
Revolut largely offers day-to-day banking, with no initial charge for users, nor for any transactions, standing orders or direct debit payments. It offers currency exchange, debit cards, virtual cards, Apple Pay, commission-free stock trading, cryptocurrencies, commodities, and other services. With a £4.2 billion valuation, Revolut became the UK's most valuable fintech: in short, Revolut dub themselves as “the world’s first truly global financial superapp”. The obvious advantage of mobile banks is that it they don’t have any branches you can walk into; Revolut instead has virtual accounts that you can access at great ease. Hence, Revolut – except in its headquarters – does not contribute to excess emissions like traditional banks. Customers can pay securely using a unique card number for every spend, with real card details remaining hidden, secure from hackers and fraudsters. Hence, both in a financial security and a renewable aspect, Revolut trumps traditional banking. Yet, the app also manufactures and distributes their own plastic and metal physical debit cards to users who wish to access more features. Information about the sustainability of such cards is virtually non-existent, and therefore we can question the environmental output of such cards. Specifically, plastic cards can cause big scale pollution problems, while metal cards are only available at a greater price.
In terms of the financial makeup of Revolut as a mobile banking app, it claims to be highly reliable and 7 times better than traditional banks at stopping card fraud. Revolut uses algorithms to identify money laundering, fraud, and other criminal activity – and allows users to use virtual unique cards to shelter them from fraud. Furthermore, Revolut allows users to donate to social causes in a variety of ways while using the app – from LGBT rights to India’s coronavirus crisis. That is, they encourage users to donate through innovative schemes like the rainbow card and the Anthony Joshua collaboration. Yet, generally, Revolut does not explicitly demonstrate how they are fighting ESG issues in a sustainable way. Their website omits any mention of the effects of climate change on the globe and lacks a section about ESG and sustainable aspects of their business. One has to dive deep into the ‘Revolut Blog’ to find any mention of climate change or social causes - and even then, you would have to cherry pick.
Revolut, as a firm, scantly shares its sustainability goals or moral values, preferring to focus on their goal to “help customers improve their financial health, give them more control, and connect people seamlessly across the world”. It seems like they prefer to focus on financial goals exclusively, choosing to omit ESG concerns as a whole from their public profile. Yet, Revolut has recently joined a host of UK fintechs – including Starling Bank, Wise, Onfido, Habito and GoCardless – in a new 'Tech Zero' taskforce to tackle climate change. This group set itself the aim of accelerating the UK government's plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 – planning to host a launch summit in the coming months and agree on commitments on carbon emissions, green investment and helping customers make greener choices. But this involvement has not led Revolut to explain what their commitment is – bringing no tangible results or goals. Sure, they seem to steer clear of the bad reputation of traditional banks and investment funds who meddle with arctic oil and gas, coal mining, fracked oil and gas, tar sands oil etc. Yet, Revolut’s omission of sustainability and lack of a standardized approach to ESG is obvious and concerning.