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SEB and Planethon collaborate in sustainable payments

SEB and Planethon, a planet-centric intelligence firm, have participated in an innovative co-creation project with the aim of evaluating how payment and business transaction data can be used to broaden and deepen companies’ sustainability analysis.

Most sustainability offerings and especially analytics services focus almost exclusively on reducing carbon emissions which is not sufficient to mitigate planetary risks. Through the project, SEB and Planethon explored how to expand beyond existing sustainability metrics by analysing bank payment data and customer companies' business data with scientifically assured ‘social-ecological' data sets (datasets where social and environmental factors are considered together).

The results show that there is a potential to get a near real-time dynamic map of the payment flow connected to environmental hotspots, a more sophisticated understanding of risk and how one's action can have multiple impacts on both people and planet. For example, a payment that flows through an area that is a site of rapid deforestation, biodiversity loss and human rights violations.

The pilot case collaboration of SEB and Planethon was complemented by the customer, Ekman Group, who shared the required business transaction information and gave valuable input that informed the results of the experiment.

“SEB is continuously exploring opportunities to improve and expand levels of sustainability in all its activities, processes and businesses. SEB's green financing solutions, an industry forerunner, has been a good foundation on which to build a framework to experiment solutions for analysing the sustainability of our customers' commercial transactions supported by our own data and resources. This will help SEB's customers to better understand the sustainability impact of their international business transactions by combining diverse information sources, including both the financial transaction and the payment data. These can be consolidated into actionable insights,” says Harri Rantanen, Business Developer within Transaction Services at SEB.

“The need for corporate action towards a safe and just planet for all is urgently needed. SEB takes leadership in exploring next-generation sustainability services to their corporate customers. Through this joint experiment, we were able to leverage Planethon's capabilities in creating science- and data driven analytics solutions to be part of shaping the future of sustainable payments,“ continues Carina Johed, CTO at Planethon.

The participating co-creators point out that analysis on a larger scale would be made possible through automated access to and processing of data from banks, customers, and external sustainability sources. This method could then be used for other types of transactions with different stakeholders.

The project was commenced and executed in 2021 based on Planethon's planet-centric design thinking principles and business development methods. While the experiment only covered a limited number of payments and business transactions, it was nevertheless able to determine that more automated processing with harmonised common data sets would be possible for future steps. It also proved that the service could be run by various combinations of business partners and be expanded to a larger stakeholder group.

Detailed description of experiment case

Good sustainability risk and value chain management are key factors in future business success. We all know and realise how climate change, biodiversity loss, and other social & environmental challenges are impacting our daily lives. Customers, both private and corporate ones, are becoming more aware of the impact of their actions as buyers and sellers. Corporations, those selling them goods and services, are being more and more strictly evaluated on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) measures. These factors used to be very marginal and largely optional. Now they are becoming unavoidable and central to doing business.

In addition to market pressures and changing customer preferences, a parallel process is occurring whereby regulatory requirements are getting stricter. This impacts corporations in their daily business operations and leads towards more sustainable decision-making. The hard data, the verifiable facts and the actionable information to make proper risk and business decisions on ESG metrics is not always available in a way that is accurate, verifiable, insightful and visualised in a way that supports actions in both the short and longer term. Business transaction counterparties, as well as goods and services purchased and sold, need to be analysed in terms of sustainability as part of a suite of integrated social and environmental risks. When it comes to new business cases, this evaluation that supports actionable insights is mission critical. Accurate information, supported by the latest science and clear evidence is becoming increasingly important so as not to jeopardise a company's own business brand and values. This is especially the case now that the activities of companies are being increasingly scrutinised and any unsubstantiated claims are quickly identified as ‘greenwashing’

Banks play an important supporting role in executing the financial part of these business transactions for corporations. As one business transaction may consist of many banking transactions, banks have an opportunity to consolidate and aggregate these individual transactions into batches and then across companies or related business areas. Even though payment transactions happen after the business decisions have been made, easily available payments data could be a baseline to look at overall corporate business trends and allow for adaptive, evolving, and future focused analytics which is enhanced through combining payments data with more accurate and timely business transaction data from the customer. This then allows for the generation of a novel, combined data set from which to extract and synthesis insights on planetary impact and business impact.

This, in a nutshell, was the core assumption of our experiment. The first step was combining payments data from SEB with business transaction data from Ekman Group. This was then used as a foundation for integrating sophisticated, science-backed sustainability data sets and business analytics by Planethon. Such hybridisation and synthesis could create a solution that adds significant value in order to steer both the activities of corporate customers and the business of the bank itself along a more sustainable route, for people and planet. To combine a number of data sources from different owners with diverse and incompatible data storage technologies, we utilised Planethons Knowledge Graph. This new technology enables connected information and elegant and easily explorable networks with logical, semantically coherent data points. This would make, with Planethon’s tools of analysis, machine learning and visualisation, complex sustainability metrics and knowledge, easier, usable, and understandable in a business context. The platform itself has the potential to act as a ‘sustainability learning engine’ where staff can learn about new sustainability challenges across different dimensions, gain enhanced insight and new perspective and generate new ideas for taking action to support more sustainable business practices in both the short term and the long term.

From May 2021 to November 2021, in a very agile manner, this Experiment was guided and executed with strong collaboration from all involved partners. The final results, after various iterations, were presented in a common workshop, on the 15th of November, 2021. Despite a limited number of transactions utilised in the experiment, the ambition and specific goals of the experiment were able to be achieved. A customised visualisation dashboard was created showing integrated social and environmental (social-ecological) facts, figures, insights. This was shown linked up to specific transactions occurring in a specific place on a specific date and visualised clearly, which potentially could show sustainability impacts and add insights for future customers’ business operation decisions.