Editorial Policy

American Express Rewarded Points for Going Green

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By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
October 1, 2010

American Express has earned a reputation for featuring lucrative rewards credit card deals, as well as for scoring highest in customer satisfaction for several years in a row. Less known is the fact that Amex also is raking in points from environmentalists for funding environmental projects and, internally, pioneering more environmentally friendly company policies.

According to Mother Nature Network (MNN.com), Amex is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint by cutting back on paper usage and electricity, setting a goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 10 percent by 2012. To that end, American Express recently implemented an environmental program concentrating on energy conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable use of natural resources. This includes the installation of energy-efficient lighting systems in company facilities, a recycling program to reduce paper waste, and even headquartering the Amex facility in Sidney, Australia in a so-called ‘green,’ environmentally friendly building.

Like other credit card companies, American Express is also encouraging customers to switch to online statements to reduce paper consumption. Some Amex cards offer rewards points for eco-friendly purchases and donations made to environmental organizations. The credit card company also recently introduced the ZYNC charge card, which gives cardholders double reward points for purchases made at more than 4,000 green merchants selected by Greenopia.com.

Apart from its efforts to adopt more environmental policies and reduce the company’s carbon footprint, American Express also supports numerous environmental causes through grants and donations, including the New York Restoration Project, which plans to help plant one million new trees in the five boroughs of New York City over ten years. The company has also vowed to match employee donations to eligible nonprofit environmental organizations.

By far, Amex’ most visible environmental effort today is the Amex Take Part Members Project, an online program which allows anyone—Amex cardholder or not—to volunteer, donate, or vote for organizations seeking to receive funding from American Express. Site visitors can cast one vote per week to help decide which five charities will receive a total of $1,000,000 in funding from American Express; the funding is issued every 3 months. Voting is open to everyone, not just American Express cardholders.

The Take Part Members Project also features volunteer opportunities, some requiring a commitment of as little as an hour. Volunteers in some cases may be awarded Membership Rewards bonus points for donating time to charities enrolled in the project. Lastly, Take Part members can make donations to over a million charities through the site using their American Express card, or donate rewards points. In 2010 alone, American Express will award $4 million to twenty charitable causes, several of which concerns environment and wildlife preservation. Winners of past years have included Keep America Beautiful, the Nature Conservancy, and Rainforest Alliance.

Unfortunately, when it comes to issuing more environmentally friendly credit cards, Amex is still lagging behind credit card rival Discover Card. Discover features a fully biodegradable Discover More card, made from a type of PVC, which begins to decompose when exposed to the microorganisms present in compost, dirt, landfills, and water. The biodegradable Discover card supposedly breaks down 99 percent within five years without leaving behind any traces of toxicity, greatly reducing the landfill burden from the 1.4 billion credit cards currently in use in the U.S.