The growing frequency of serious climatic occurrences, combined with the imprudent nature of economic development, has the potential to create unsustainable levels of damage for all the organisms living in the world. This is where the financial sector comes into the picture, as it is a layer between consumers and day-to-day consumption, providing the fuel and the rails for the modern economy. Thanks to the modern technologies like machine learning and AI, many financial services providers are now able to use the vast amount of gathered data (payment transactions) to help and guide consumers to act more environmentally friendly.
Established in 2017, OfnK is one such financial service provider that is addressing the issue of climate change. The organization’s goal is to build an open platform to enable the payment industry to use payment data to help their customers to understand their environmental impact and to guide them to make more responsible and environmental friendly purchase decisions.
The Competent Leader Fighting Climate Change using his Knowledge
The Founder and Managing Director of OfnK, David Lais is a technical enthusiast and the serial founder, who has been working in the payment sector his entire career life. At the age of 16, the competent leader started his first venture and coincidentally moved into the payment industry not knowing what he actually got himself into. This industry piqued his interest more because everyone pays for something and uses it daily, but they don’t know how everything works.
In 2015, David encountered a life-changing event and decided to change his focus and use his payment knowledge to start fighting for climate change. “For me, it was crystal clear that each and every one of us has a direct impact on the environment by choosing what we eat, how we travel, and live our lives,” says the Founder of OfnK. Therefore, he embarked to find a solution and came up with the idea to establish OfnK.
Leveraging Data and Technology to Make Customers Understand
OfnK is a short form of Organisation fuer nachhaltigen Konsum (Organization for sustainable consumption) and a German non-profit organization which believes that to combat climate change and support the global sustainable development goals, it needs to educate consumers on their consumption habits and its impact on nature. Keeping its goals in mind, the German-based organization has developed a system that can determine the negative effect on the environment through electronic payment transactions. To determine the environmental impact of purchase, different machine learning algorithms categorize and analyze through payment transactions by comparing it with sustainability indices and public information. The detailed data along with various information about the merchants and the purchases itself is provided and then, it is processed, prepared and made available to the consumers. As a result, customers are able to understand the social and environmental impacts behind their purchases. OfnK is primarily serving the key verticals such as retail banking and account information service providers. Through them, these people can use data and information to guide their consumers. Moreover, the smart payment solution provider has also ventured into the sustainability sector and is tackling major socio-economic and environmental topics connected to the climate crisis. In the coming days, it is hoping to offer a part of the solution in creating a more sustainable world.
Working Towards a Common Goal
In this industry, numerous organizations are offering their services and perhaps they are working towards a common goal. According to David, “Is it a competition if we fight for the same goal? I don’t think we actually have competition.” The founder is aware of the others market competitors that are working on the similar lines. But, it doesn’t affect him because he believes, “We all share the same goal and reaching this goal is more important than our individual success.” When everyone is moving towards a common goal, it creates a very supportive network of like-minded companies and individuals, less ego-driven, and focused on the co-created goal. Additionally, David is a strong defender of the principle “Give-Give-Take”. “Always give more than you take, you never know what impact you create with what you give and the more you give for the sake of giving, the more you get back––from my experience that even works in a highly competitive environment,” says David.
Addressing Challenges, Changing the Payment Industry
Since OfnK’s inception, David faced numerous challenges but also successfully overcame them with his knowledge and willpower. However, the founder believes that his biggest challenge was and continues to be the global acceptance of the climate change crisis. It is still very difficult to get banks or payment institutes to allocate funds to such subject-related ventures. Moreover, for most of his clients, the decision is still made on the fact that the developed solution drives sales instead of actually looking for a climate change solution. But, today, the younger generations are asking for climate-friendly solutions in all areas which is the first step towards a sustainable world. The visionary leader believes that if he had the chance to change something within this system, his first choice would be to change the current fundamental monetary system. This system is not designed to support society and needs an urgent upgrade.
Wild Ride Ahead for OfnK
OfnK is looking towards a brighter future where consumption of sustainable and eco-friendly products will be used. In the next 5 years, the financial service provider aims to scale within the industry, venture out into new countries, integrate more features, and reach to additional partners. The organization is also ready for new opportunities that come with new data, especially if it taps into things like supply chain transparency in combination with AI and machine learning. Commenting on this, David says, “Technological advances and the trend towards a more conscious consumption will make the upcoming years very interesting and for sure bring new opportunities and shape our industry as a whole.”