TH Exclusive: Sustainable Innovation with NuRide CEO and Co-Founder Rick Steele
As you can imagine with our big news, there's a lot of buzz over here at TreeHugger about building and growing green businesses. On June 12, 2007 over at the lovely Credit Suisse building at 11 Madison Avenue, sustainability consulting firm Kinetix held a panel discussion entitled Sustainable Innovation and Innovation for Sustainability with three green CEOs. In this post, we bring you the audio and transcript of a presentation by Rick Steele Co-Founder and CEO of NuRide, the nation's first ride network that rewards people for sharing rides. Arthur D. Little's recent report, The Innovation High Ground, finds that as many as 95% of companies believe that such 'sustainability-driven innovation' has the potential to deliver business value and almost 25% believe it definitely will. Where are sustainability-driven innovators headed and what can other companies learn from them? The Program
A corporation's organizational framework must facilitate and encourage employee innovation and risk-taking. Frequently, integral decision making must occur at lower employee levels where people have the greatest information on products, markets, customer feedback and relationships. It is critical that innovation across employee levels is encouraged and supported, but how can a corporation ensure innovation and more importantly, sustainable innovation? How do companies internalize a culture and process to ensure consistent innovation? GE's 'Ecomagination' initiative to double global revenue from environmental products by 2012 has radically shifted public attention from the company's reputation as an environmental laggard to a new role as an eco-innovator. Other companies such as Pfizer (green chemistry) and Toyota (hybrid technology) claim growing markets for their products among both consumers and businesses.
Rick Steele: Driving causes huge environmental problems. There's just no question about it. Some of you might not know the scale of these problems. There are roughly a billion trips a day in the United States. That's a billion car trips a day. Eighty percent have one person inside.
Think about NuRiders and think about Travelocity or Expedia for ground transportation. You go online, you find somebody going your way, you share one ride. If you enjoy that ride, you do it again. If you don't, you don't.
I can give this person a score: Were they on time? Was the car clean? Did they drive good? I can rate them just like I rate people on eBay and other things. That's essentially how the system works.
This is an important distinction between traditional car pooling notice I haven't said the word carpool yet, that's like a four-letter word in our industry. Carpooling means the same person every day for the rest of your life. Car pooling is getting married; NuRide is dating.
Every time you share a ride, you get points. We reward the driver and the rider the same. We're not here to pay for gas or tolls or any of that. All we're saying is, "You did a good thing for the community and our environment, and we're going to reward you as a group."
The more people you throw in the car, the more points you get. You take those points and you redeem them with sponsors on our network. I get $10 from the local restaurant, I can get some movie tickets, so on and so forth. You redeem them on our site.
It's funny to tell people, "Are you going to retire on your NuRide dollars?" No, you're not. But it does get people to change their behavior; it gets them to think differently about the process.
Carpooling in America has been on a decline since Jimmy Carter was president. No matter what happens, every year, fewer and fewer people share rides. "Oh, I've got to pick up my kids from school. I got to do this, and I can't do it every day, I can't do that..."
There's always a really good excuse. But if you bribe somebody they can actually change their behavior and it starts to get a little fun. Within a ride you can do it casually, but the bribe gets you to start to change behavior.
There are value sponsors. They get to target people. Keep in mind, we know where people live, where they work, what car they drive, we knew the route they drive, we know everything about them, and we even know where they work. So, if somebody wants to reach somebody who works for IBM in Poughkeepsie, we'll give them a special reward to come to their restaurant. They can do that. All our private information is protected on our network, but sponsors can tell us who they want to reach, what they want to do, and then we can reach out to them.
There have been about 28 million miles we've taken off the road so far. 60% of people who used NuRide had never shared a ride before. We've delivered about $1 million worth of rewards so far. Our largest corporate sponsor right now is Chevron and we have a lot of local sponsors.
These are big numbers. It's not that everybody has to do it. Like any kind of member from the ultra '70s environmental programs, it's just a little thing that you do every day. You've got to make it easy, make people do a little bit. That's the way we do it with NuRide, is you can do it when ever you want, you can do it casually and you get rewards from our corporate sponsors.
[Lauren Kritzer assisted on this post]