October 2018 - Latcham

Sustainable membership cards: what does the future hold for the membership card?

Garry Ford is a Specialist Client Director here at Latcham, and over the past two years he has seen a shift from membership professionals who now want to embrace sustainability by utilising new techniques and products to produce sustainable membership cards and packs.

Most members associate very strongly with membership brands and having a membership card is something that they are really proud of, so they still have a definite purpose. However, now it’s time to produce cards that support the wider sustainability agenda, meeting the needs of so many members who advocate the environment.

Garry has some thoughts on why the environment is and should be of interest to the membership sector.

“What we have seen is membership cards made from biodegradable or recyclable materials become more of a key concern for membership professionals, especially those in the medical services and horticultural industries. There’s no denying that plastic is a big issue at the moment, with documentaries such as Blue Planet highlighting the problem of plastic in our oceans. Most membership organisations offer membership cards made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic in order to gather data at a given point. For example in the horticultural sector, a member will visit a garden with their bar coded membership card, which will then register that they have been there and give them personalised offers in return”.

“The key point for membership organisations to consider when it comes to choosing the material of their membership cards is what will their members do with the old ones once they have expired or they have decided to no longer be a member? In most cases, it’s more than likely that the card will be cut up and sent to landfill”.

“Most membership organisations are looking for sustainable membership cards that are recyclable or biodegradable – but what is the difference? Firstly, standard PVC cards have a special chalk covering which means that they will eventually degrade in the ground over a period of years. During this process, the PVC breaks down through granulation, meaning that it reduces into smaller pieces. In comparison, full PVC cards are recyclable but will not biodegrade. This means that when they have come to the end of their life, it’s possible for them to be turned into something else, which makes them much more environmentally friendly. In 2017, one million PVC cards were recycled as part of a special trial to provide material for use in new products such as pipes, preventing 10 tonnes of plastic going to landfill. This example shows that it is possible for PVC cards to be recycled successfully and for membership organisations to enhance their green credentials too”.

Whichever type of PVC a membership organisation chooses to use for their membership cards, they are taking steps to show their members that they are actively thinking about their environmental impact. But what does the future hold for membership cards? Garry Ford thinks that they will always have a place, but that the industry will see a bigger shift towards biodegradable or more environmentally friendly products moving forward.

Garry added “We are certainly starting to see membership organisations thinking more about their carbon footprint and what they are putting out there”.

Latcham are membership experts, helping membership organisations communicate with their members directly and sustainably with market-leading campaigns, membership packs and communications. Find out more at the Latcham Membership portal.