| ||company: NU Card|
country: The Netherlands, and Wales (UK)
product: smart shopping card
distribution: Rotterdam & Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Wales
what: launched in Rotterdam in 2002, and soon to be taken up in Amsterdam, the NU Spaar-pas Card (NU meaning ‘now’ in Dutch) is a scheme that rewards people for their efforts to consume more sustainably. It is an incentive, not a penalty. People use their NU smart card to get points for separating waste and for buying sustainable products. Sustainable products include labelled organic, energy-efficient and fair-trade goods, bicycles, green financial products, renewable energy, rentals, repairs and second-hand goods.
who: the NU-card is a joint initiative between the Municipality of Rotterdam, Rabobank (Holland’s largest consumer bank) and the consultancy Barataria (now called Stitching Points).
how it works: the NU-card is based on a chip card technology that enables cardholders to get points as a reward for specific actions and for the purchase of specific sustainable goods and services. The points are then redeemed for other environmentally beneficial products. For instance, consumers can decide to ‘spend’ their points on public transport, or on ‘eco-friendly’ leisure activities around the city, such as going to the cinema. In this way, there are two positive incentives for sustainable behaviour: saving the points with sustainable purchasing behaviour (see ‘saving list’) and spending the points on sustainable goods and services.
The ‘saving list’ includes:
renewable energy, insulation materials, A-label equipment, High Yield heaters, etc.;
eco-labelled products (like organic foods);
green financial products;
delivery of separated waste fractions.
The ‘spending list’ includes:
public transport and other forms of sustainable city transport (bike rental, car share, etc.);
re-used products and repair services.
in the Netherlands…: one year after its launch in Rotterdam the NU pilot had 10,000 cardholders - with 86% of points earned by separating waste- and more than 100 local stores participating.
… and in Wales: following the Dutch example, the Welsh Consumer Council is moving to adopt a similar green points scheme. In November 2003 the National Consumer Council (NCC) and the new economics foundation (NEF) held a high-level seminar to discuss the feasibility of developing the NU card in the UK. The seminar brought the Dutch organisers behind the NU card together with representatives from local government, waste disposal, regional government, retailers, currency designers, the smart card industry and the electronic money industry to discuss what might be possible in a UK context.
forthcoming: the NU card promoters also suggested that the European Commission study the transferability and implications of the concept to other countries of the EU. New demonstration projects will be carried out and could be scaled up at national levels or at an international level. The Dutch card-organisation would then be succeeded by a European one to monitor and further expand the card.