Online Carpooling Platform Makes Commuting Greener
April 5, 2013
Last week, Shao Kai, an engineer at Lenovo, registered at an online portal specifically designed by Wodache for Lenovo employees in Beijing. He logged in and got connected with a colleague who lives near him.
As a car owner, he offered a free ride to this colleague and became the first batch of users of this platform to carpool with colleagues at Lenovo.
This initiative, the first of its kind in China piloted under the Company-based Voluntary Traffic Demand Management (TDM) project, aims to introduce the practice of companies encouraging employees to voluntarily adopt green commuting, e.g. biking, metro/bus, carpooling, or working from home. The project is implemented by the World Bank with funding support from the Swiss Government.
Beijing is one of the busiest cities in the world with 5.2 million registered cars as of 2012 – most of car owners drive to work alone. This large number of cars on the road has caused severe congestion and air pollution, a problem that exacerbated this winter with dense smog and haze.
To begin with, the project assisted three companies in designing and implementing TDM initiatives to help improve their employees’ commuting efficiency, increases their use of green transport modes and measure potential environmental benefits. Lenovo, the world’s second largest PC maker, is the first company to be on the track.
“We have over 10,000 employees based in Beijing. Commuting is not just part of our daily life, but would also make a big impact on the city traffic and environment,” wrote Chen Xudong, President of Lenovo China, in his email calling on employees to join the green commuting initiative. “We need to think seriously about what we can do for the city.”
Encouraging employees to carpool is one of the green commuting activities Lenovo is implementing. The online carpooling platform entered open beta a week ago. Now 1,320 employees have registered and about 110 carpooling trips have been made in less than a week.
Commuting is not just part of our daily life, but would also make a big impact on the city traffic and environment. We need to think seriously about what we can do for the city.”
On Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, Lenovo employees shared their experience in carpooling and cited three features of the platform: 1) it is open to Lenovo employees only and can easily build trust between drivers and passengers; 2) carpooling helps bond colleagues and gives a chance to know colleagues from other units; 3) the amount of carbon reduction is visualized on the map of the carpool trip, making it easy to see individual contribution to fighting climate change.
Viathe platform, Zhao Juanli, a young employee who joined Lenovo a year ago, was able to carpool with Jia Ping, who has been in the company for eight years. “One the road, we chatted and I learned a lot from this big sister,” Zhao tweeted on Sina Weibo.
A huge campaign to promote carpool is all over Lenovo buildings – in the lobby, in the cafeteria and even in the bathrooms. The platform was officially launched on Friday.
At the launch, Rong Jun, a member of the Beijing Municipal Communications Committee, praised Lenovo’s commitment to green commuting and expressed hope that this initiative could be spread to more companies in the Shangdi Information Industry Base, Beijing's high-tech boomtown where over 300 IT companies are located.
DuJianhua, Vice President of Lenovo Group, said it was great to see Lenovo employees take real actions to tackle the biggest two headaches in Beijing – traffic jam and air pollution. “Let’s all make an effort and together we can make a difference,” he spoke to the employees at the event.
Binyam Reja, World Bank Transport Sector Coordinator for China, said this platform exemplified a good partnership between the government, the private sector and individuals. “More Chinese cities could follow the step of Beijing, and it is also a good example to share with other countries.”
Worldwide, voluntary green commuting is not a new concept. Started in California in the U.S. in the 1980s, it has now been widely adopted by many large companies and organizations in the U.S. and Europe, Ke Fang, a senior transport specialist at the World Bank who leads the project, told Lenovo employees.
He also shared good measures taken by companies to provide incentives to employees, such as subsidizing public transport/bike users/carpoolers, flexible working schedules, protected bike parking, shower rooms for bikers, reserving good location parking lots for carpoolers.
“This pilot we are doing in Beijing represents a ‘bottom-up’ approach to solve the traffic and air pollution problems, to complement efforts made by the national and local governments,” Fang said.
“Voluntary green commuting also helps strengthen corporate social responsibility (CSR),” said Guo Peiyuan, General Manager of Syntao, a consulting firm specialized in CSR.
“If 10% of Lenovo’s employees join carpool, the carbon reduction effect would equal planting over 3,000 trees,” said Guan Yisong, deputy director of Easy Carbon Consultancy, based on his analysis of transportation modes of Lenovo’ employees.
At the end of the event, the first batch of carpoolers were rewarded a gas card worth 100 RMB for their enthusiasm to be a green commuter.