I’ve been a big Uber fan and user for the last three years – but with reservations. I love anything that is technology driven, and I like new things that disrupt the status quo and shakes up any industry that is tired and complacent. Big tick.
But I also work in HR and so while Uber drivers have a lot of flexibility and less rules (tick), they work for a global company that appears to have a toxic culture and has been beset by claims of driver exploitation in the US where they have no say over fare decreases and often earn below minimum wage. Not so good.
Two weeks ago something unexpected happened. I went to a meetup in Wellington to hear Toni Hogg, General Manager of Green Cabs talk about their story and operating model. I always like to hear senior executives talking about their business, but I confess I knew nothing about the Green Cabs story and so had very low expectations about the session.
One of the first things she said startled me. Green Cabs are a tree planting enterprise. More than 225,000 planted in the last ten years!
The company founder wants to improve the world and has chosen taxis as his vehicle (pun intended) to do just that. Founded on good service, lower than normal fares, pioneering the use of hybrid and electric vehicles, they off-set their small carbon footprint by putting a portion of every fare towards national and international tree planting projects.
Green Cabs have been operating in Wellington since 2007 and obviously I have seen the distinctive green taxis driving around but never given them much thought amongst the various different taxi firms. It became apparent during the session that I wasn’t alone. Green Cabs haven’t been great at getting their story and point of difference out there so seem to be a largely well kept secret. That needs to change and I hope it does.
Now in five cities across New Zealand and with over 150 cars, a fully electronic booking app called Go Green (it works much like Uber’s) and well trained, carefully selected drivers they are currently looking at having a fully electric fleet if it’s possible. Quite simply, their cars are cheaper to run so fares can be lower than most other taxi companies.
A quick skim read of their website will tell you everything you need to know about their culture, ethos and business approach. It’s refreshingly simple and effective, much like their company structure and operating model. They care with a passion and are all about the bigger picture. This is probably the best example of doing business for good I have seen in New Zealand.
About halfway through Toni’s presentation I realized I had found an unexpectedly viable alternative to using Uber. Like many these days, I increasingly make purchasing decisions around brands, culture and business ethics. I’m not especially an environmentalist, but I do believe in businesses putting back into their communities and managing their impact on the planet.
So I have downloaded the app and am making a conscious decision to Go Green. It just makes good business sense to me.