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Green Credit Card | Republic of Korea

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The Korean Ministry of Environment and the Korea Environment Industry and Technology institute introduced the Green Credit Card and more than 15 million cards have been issued in South Korea, encouraging users to make low-carbon lifestyle choices.

Green Credit Card users are rewarded with points that are converted into cash or can be donated to environmental funds when they buy eco-friendly products, use public transport, make paper-less transactions, and consume less electricity, water, and gas. The Green Credit Card also offers discounts for electric car charging services and the purchase of recycled automobile parts. Furthermore, it nurtures the market for low-carbon products and services, thus driving eco-innovation and shifting to a low-carbon economy. The Green Credit Card is the world’s first nation-wide initiative that uses a credit card platform to provide various economic rewards for eco-friendly behaviors.


Key facts

  • As of December 2016, the number of issued cards exceeded 15 million, which is equivalent to 55% of the economically active population of Korea;
  • The number of eco-friendly products eligible for the Green Credit Card rewards is 1,957, and the number of participating corporations is 224;
  • On average, Green Credit Card holders use the Green Credit Card to take public transportation about 3.3 times per month, which outperforms other credit cards.

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The problem

In South Korea, like many well-off nations, daily lifestyles can be wasteful and polluting. This overconsumption harms the planet, the climate, and future generations. Through spending decisions, citizens have enormous economic power to make a difference. Lack of information, as well as relatively high prices for eco-friendly products are major barriers hampering the consumption of green products and preventing people from making more sustainable choices.


The solution

The Green Credit Card is an ICT tool to monitor and manage the consumption of goods and services that emit greenhouse gas. It monitors various areas such as product consumption, transportation, and energy use in the residential sector via one credit card, the One-Card platform. Economic rewards are provided to credit card users when they purchase eco-friendly products and services with participating corporations. Other examples of economic rewards of using the credit card are related to using public transportation, reducing consumption of household utilities (such as electricity, water, and gas), and paperless transactions. These economic rewards are converted into cash points called Eco-Money Points and accumulated in the credit card system, to be redeemed later for cash or to be used in various ways. The Green “Point of Sales” System enables retail stores to automatically recognize green products via a barcode scanner, and provide reward points to consumers when eco-friendly products are purchased with the Green Credit Card. The credit card is currently the most commonly used medium of payment for public transport and purchasing products in Korea.


Helping the planet

It is estimated that about 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions have been reduced between the onset of the program in July 2011 and December 2016. A total of 1.46 million tons of GHGs emission reductions have been achieved through the promotion of public transportation use, energy savings in electricity, gas, and water at home. The Green Credit Card directs people’s consumption patterns towards a low-carbon lifestyle and sustainability.

The Green Credit Card has been effective in closing the information gap and tackling price barriers that eco-friendly consumption is faced with. When 10 types of labeled eco-friendly products are purchased, 1.5% - 24% of the product price is offered as reward points, which has collectively resulted in about 1 million tons of CO2 equivalent emission reductions since the start of the initiative. The database also serves as a tool to plan further development, and encourages manufacturers to produce low carbon products and participate in the Green Credit Card system.


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Helping people

The Green Credit Card mobile app serves as an informative tool to further encourage low carbon consumption. The information provided ranges from the volume of purchases of eco-friendly products and energy reduction by Green Credit Card users, helping to analyze market trends and needs. The consumers are not only reaping rewards for using the card but also upfront discounts on public transport and products. Behavioral change is one of the many positive benefits of the Green Credit Card, as it allows the user to be better informed before purchasing a product or a service.


Spillover effect

Efforts are being made by the Korean Ministry of Environment and the Korean Environment Industry and Technology Institute to scale-up the Green Credit Card in Korea. Since July 2011, there has been a 5-fold increase in the number of products that are eligible for rewards and participating corporations. A second version of the Green Credit Card was launched in November 2016 with the upgraded service, providing Eco-Money Points for paperless transactions in response to evolving consumption patterns. The Korean Ministry of the Environment and the Korean Environment Industry and Technology Institute plan to attempt to reach the younger demographic, as behavioral consumer choices are embedded while still young. The Green Credit Card initiative is a successful public/private partnership business model, where the government’s policy is to promote eco-friendly consumption and production patterns. It also contributes to increasing the profits of eco-friendly product manufacturers and distributors, resulting in non-industrial greenhouse gas emission reductions. China, Taiwan, and Thailand have indicated that they intend to replicate this initiative.




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