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5 ways you can deliver the sustainable payment options your customers want

Friday, July 07, 2023

Consumers today are investing in a more sustainable future. Buying from brands that boast recycled materials, electronic offerings and environmentally responsible operations is an easy way for everyday people to go green — and a way for merchants like you to unlock new revenue streams from customers proud to buy from an eco-friendly business.

From food to fashion, tech-savvy, ethically-minded consumers are scrutinizing their buying habits to reduce their carbon footprint. And they expect businesses to do the same — from the products sold to the accepted payment options.

A recent global study by Mastercard found that 62% of consumers say it’s more important than ever for businesses to become more sustainable. And 54% believe reducing their carbon footprint is more important since COVID-19.

For some small business owners, it may not feel feasible to weave sustainable practices into your offerings. We get it, times have been tough. But it is possible to take some steps toward building a sustainable brand consumers take pride in shopping from. Partnering with eco-friendly suppliers (say, the farmer down the street whose vegetables would be perfect for your summer pastas), establishing internal processes to reduce waste or even adopting recycled packaging are all good options.

Accepting digital payments is another viable path. Offering consumers an alternative to paper and plastic payment types can be a relatively simple and powerful first step toward sustainability — something customers are beginning to expect from retailers and restaurants large and small.

A woman in a pink-walled floral shop presents a brown paper-wrapped bouquet to a customer who is completing a payment with her phone.

Paper, plastic … or digital?

Traditional payment methods like paper (cash and checks) and plastic (credit and debit cards) are popular for many reasons, but they don’t have to be the only option at your cash wrap.

After all, paper alone accounts for 26% of total waste in landfills.

Why? Because the environmental effects of paper production and use include deforestation, large amounts of energy and water and air pollution from production, transportation and disposal.

Plastic produced between 1950 and 2017 accounted for 7 billion tons of waste in our landfills. And 14 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Plastic pollution can alter natural habitats and reduce our ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change.

Reducing paper and plastic from the payment experience helps the planet and your customers.

Digital payments, on the other hand, require minimal resources to produce, and they have a lower environmental footprint when compared to traditional payment methods. Ecological benefits of digital payments include:


Reduced resource consumption

Digital payments don’t require the production of cash, coins or checks. This saves natural resources like trees, water and metals.


Less waste

Cash, checks and cards require disposal once they are retired, canceled or removed from circulation, adding to overflowing landfills. Digital payments don’t.


Lower air pollution

Cash, checks and cards must be printed or manufactured, then transported to banks or consumers. Digital payments do not require manufacturing and transportation from point to point, helping reduce carbon emissions.

Ultimately, digital payments have a lower environmental footprint when compared to traditional payment methods. But nothing is perfect. Concerns about how digital payments may affect the environment exist, including:


Electronic waste

Digital payments rely on devices like smartphones and computers, which require energy and resources to manufacture and operate.


Increased energy consumption

Using digital payments increases the demand for electricity and data centers, which can have significant carbon footprints. Fortunately, sustainable data centers exist, and they leverage cloud technology to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Additionally, 86% of the world’s population already have smartphones, offsetting some of the environmental impacts of digital payments.

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Give your customers ease and choice

There are lots of digital payments trends and developments for small business owners coming down the pike, and going green is just one way to align with the future of commerce.

On top of numerous environmental benefits, you can propel your small business and keep your customers happy and coming back with multiple ways to pay.

Here, we’re sharing five ways you can offer a breezy, eco-conscious payment process.

1. Accept digital wallets

Digital wallets are cashless, cardless and paperless — a clear environmental benefit. And they’re gaining popularity.

According to NerdWallet, four out of five people make purchases using digital wallets or mobile payment apps, like Google Pay®, Apple Pay® and Samsung Pay®. By 2025, digital wallet users will exceed 4.4 billion globally.

Digital wallet users can make real-time payments from their connected devices in-store, at the food truck counter and online.

2. Offer payment links

Whether you sell ceramic coffee mugs at the farmer’s market or have an online pet boutique, payment links can be really handy — and eco-friendly.

Payment links use no paper, making your payment process more seamless, convenient and environmental. And they let your customers accept online payments in any channel, from anywhere — in person, online or on the go.

You can use payment links through an app or API, giving your customers plenty of ways to instantly pay: through social media, email, text, chat and more.

It’s that simple. You send a link and get paid. Cha-ching!

With payment links, you reduce paper and plastic from your payment process. And your customers get a quick, one-click online payment experience. It’s a win-win for everyone.

3. Embrace QR code payments

QR code payments, which Juniper Research predicts will exceed $3 trillion globally by 2025, are another popular digital, contactless payment type that offers sustainability.

Generating a QR code online or through an app is easy. Once you create one, you can share or publish your QR code on digital ads, social media, your website and more. If you run a restaurant, QR code solutions make it easy to publish your menu, enable online ordering and take payments — all online. No paper, no waste.

Most of your customers are probably familiar with using QR codes to make payments and access menus, understanding that they can use their smartphones to make a quick, seamless online payment or look over the fruity cocktails you’re serving on the patio.

QR codes are more than a form of payment, though. You can also use QR codes to promote digital coupons, send invoices, provide a direct link to your website and more.

4. Offer digital billing and invoicing

Let’s say you have a floral shop with a monthly subscription service or an event space with weekend rentals. Digital invoicing and online payment remittance solutions — including one-time or recurring invoicing and billing — would be a good fit for you.

By digitizing and automating your accounts receivable (AR) processes, you can save trees and reduce waste. (Who wants stacks of paper riddled with sticky notes littering their back offices, anyway?) Plus, this method also improves efficiency, accuracy and convenience.

5. Digitize receipts

Digital receipts are a quick and easy way to help reduce your customers’ carbon footprint, regardless of how they pay.

Customers receive their receipts instantly and can access them at any time on their smartphones or via email.

Digital receipts offer a convenient, streamlined customer checkout experience and eliminate the need for pesky paper receipts, improving customer satisfaction.

Choosing the right POS solution is a great way to start.

A sales associate and customer chat at the cash wrap in a brightly-colored stationery store.

Deliver accuracy and efficiency, too

Digitizing payment processes creates a more sustainable payments experience for your customers. But it benefits your business in several other ways, too.

  • Reduce expenses Save money on paper, printing and postage by digitizing receipts, invoices, mailers and more. And reduce labor costs by automating once-manual AP and AR processes.

  • Improve efficiency and accuracy Digital payments help speed up payment processing times. And automating and digitizing processes helps reduce errors and improves workflow.

  • Enhance security Digital payments use encryption and other security measures to protect sensitive financial information, helping reduce the risk of fraud and data loss.

  • Increase convenience Digital payments let your customers pay anywhere — in person, online or on the go, which is especially great if you run a mobile coffee service or frequently set up pop-up shops away from your retail store. Now you can deliver a more convenient payment experience and reach a wider audience.

  • Earn benefits Sure, going green is beneficial for the planet and your customers — but you get perks, as well. In many states, there are tax credits, business deductions and grant programs for certain sustainability practices.

A customer shows something on his phone to a sales associate in a homeware store, and both are smiling. A female customer waits behind the male customer holding a wicker basket.

A more sustainable future

Digital payments alone won’t solve our global environmental concerns. But as consumers dig deeper into the long-term effects of their spending habits and expect sustainability to be a core value for the businesses where they shop and dine, providing more sustainable payment options can, well, really pay off.

Ready to learn more about sustainable digital payments and how you can incorporate them into your small business offerings? Contact us today to get started.

Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us