Taking sustainability to the bank

UK digital bank Starling partners with Patch for a forward-thinking approach to carbon credits

Starling was in search of a trustworthy carbon credit partner who aligned with their core values of doing the right thing and keeping it simple.


Patch offered Starling a wide range of both traditional and tech-first carbon credit projects to support their sustainability journey.

Starling Bank launched in 2017 with a clear mission: to make personal and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) banking as seamless as possible. Since then, the app-based bank has done just that, putting the customer first every step of the way.

With 3.5 million customer accounts, four account offerings, and a slew of awards to their name (including the British Bank Awards’ Best Current Account Provider five years in a row), the company has become one of the nation’s rare fintech “unicorns”, valued at £2.5B as of 2022.

But for Starling, disrupting the financial services industry shouldn’t mean disrupting the planet. That’s why sustainability has always been a priority. From the beginning, the bank has offered paperless and branchless banking and in 2021, it became the first UK bank to offer Mastercard debit cards made from recycled plastic. 

Since then, its focus on sustainability has amplified with initiatives to  reduce its carbon footprint and compensate for that which remains. As an innovator, Starling was in search of a carbon credit partner that could deliver what it needed and work in an agile way.

Trust and innovation

Patch connects companies of all sizes with trusted carbon credits from an expertly vetted, broad scope of projects. That includes frontier-technology carbon removal solutions, in addition to more traditional projects such as reforestation and peatland maturation.

“Many partners we have talked to—whilst providing excellent quality projects and carbon credits—didn’t offer as broad a range of options as Patch,” says Toni Coulson, Director of Asset Portfolios and Sustainability at Starling. “Patch allows us greater potential diversity in our project selection.”

Patch also provides expert knowledge and support when needed. For their first year as partners, the platform introduced Starling to emerging projects as well as well-established carbon credit initiatives. The list of projects to be invested in was selected by Starling’s Greenshoots Ambassadors, a group of employee volunteers who support the delivery of Starling’s Sustainability agenda. 

Starling put the finalised shortlist (which included two Patch-introduced projects) to a company-wide employee vote. The winning carbon credits for the 2022 offsetting programme included the Uganda International Small Group Tree Planting project and SunCulture Solar Water Pumps.

SunCulture Solar Water Pumps was one project that Starling's team selected

The partnership allows Starling to explore opportunities to invest in more innovative projects as they become more established.

“As we expand our sustainability strategy further, we want to be able to invest in projects that are technology-driven, disruptive, and highly impactful in a short amount of time given the ever-increasing need to fight climate change,”  Toni says. “Patch has access and insight into trustworthy carbon credits that align with our values.” 

A multi-pronged approach 

As a founding member of climate action group TechZero (to which Patch also belongs), Starling aims, not only to examine and reduce its own emissions, but also to encourage suppliers, employees and customers to do the same. Given the complexity and breadth of sustainability, the bank considers sustainability through three lenses: (i) strategic impact, (ii) Starling’s impact on the environment, and (iii) climate-related risks.

The first lens focuses on how Starling can support and enable decarbonisation more broadly through products, stakeholder engagement, and support for legislation. The second lens aims to reduce Starling’s environmental impact as much as possible, by looking at the measurement, reduction, and compensation of the company’s corporate emissions. Purchased goods and services, for example, account for a large portion of Starling’s footprint, making supplier engagement and selection a major focus area. 

Third and finally, the bank continually assesses the potential impact of climate-related risks. 

Partners in step 

One thing is for sure: tackling climate change is an ever-evolving and complex field with no easy answers, meaning a collaborative spirit is key. 

“Patch is an ideal partner when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of carbon removal and all the potential ways it can help advance a sustainability strategy,” Toni says. “They’re a knowledgeable resource we know we can trust in a fast-changing space.”

In the meantime, Starling remains flexible, agile, and thoughtful in their approach, careful that in solving one problem, they don’t unintentionally create another.

“The sector is constantly evolving, so we’re mindful that today’s best practice might not be tomorrow’s. But that shouldn’t stop us from taking action, we just need to be ready to adapt - something Starling has proven it is able to do.”

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