Lyft’s commitment to electric vehicles is huge. Three lessons for leaders.

Elizabeth Sturcken

Investor, employee and customer pressure on companies to help lead the way to a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future is at an all-time high. Their calls for leadership are only reinforced as the current administration continues to denigrate and divide, while the nation tries to recover from the devastation of COVID-19 and work for racial justice and equity.

Lyft responded to stakeholder demands for rebuilding a better future – and in particular for climate action – through a bold commitment to transition 100% of the cars on its platform to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the private sector to fill the current leadership void on climate while also reducing air pollution, increasing consumer trust and solidifying brand reputation for the long-term.

Here are three ways Lyft’s bold leadership move can spark transformative change and inspire other business leaders to follow suit.

1. Business demand can transform transportation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that in order to avoid the worst economic and health impacts of a warming planet, we need to get to net zero emissions later this century. To achieve that, the U.S. and other advanced economies must meet the 100% clean target by 2050, at the latest.

Transportation – the biggest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. and among the largest sources of local air pollution – must be transformed through zero-emissions solutions to meet this target. Passenger cars and trucks account for 60% of U.S. transportation emissions, and these vehicles are primed to lead the transition to a net zero future.

That’s why automotive manufacturers are investing billions to develop electric vehicles and have scores of models either already on the market or on track to be introduced in the next few years.

Lyft’s strategy sends a clear signal that fleets, too, are ready to invest in the transition to a zero-emission future. To date, a few large fleets, including Biogen and New York City, have announced fleet-wide electrification goals.

Reducing pollution from transportation can also improve public health, especially in some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Businesses can create the demand for an accelerated electrification of passenger vehicles and fleets.

2. Sustainable solutions must work for people and communities

Forty percent of Lyft riders start or end their trips in low-income areas, and two-thirds of Lyft drivers identify with a minority group.

Ensuring that the move to EVs delivers not just climate, but also health and economic benefits is critical, especially because doing what’s best for stakeholders can make or break a company’s reputation and market share.

Lyft estimates that meeting its target will result in up to $10 billion in savings for drivers, from reduced vehicle operating expenses. Already, drivers in Lyft’s rental car program are saving $50-70 per week on fuel costs alone.

Business commitments can play a meaningful role in rebuilding a more equitable economy.

3. Business must be willing to use its political muscle

Long-term pollution standards are essential to drive zero-emission technology into U.S. fleets, protect human health, reduce climate pollution and save people money in fuel costs. As we rebuild from the devastation caused by COVID-19, this is more important than ever.

The most powerful tool that a company has to fight climate change is its political influence.

For example, Lyft supported maintaining the Clean Car Standards and has publicly committed to continue doing so as part of its EVs goal. Through this action, Lyft joined with other corporate voices – including Ford, Honda, BMW and VW – opposing the Trump Administration’s roll back of vehicle emission standards.

Just as importantly, Lyft is committed to continue using its political muscle to support policies that can complement protective pollution standards.

EDF is working with Lyft to secure vehicle emission standards, accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles into U.S. fleets, and develop a national charging infrastructure.

Of course, Lyft – or any one company alone – can’t on its own drive the change needed to build a cleaner future. It’s time for all business leaders to step up and meet this moment – and ensure that they’re on the right side of history.

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