By: Jessica Abo, Entrepreneur
When it comes to innovation and making a positive social impact, Mike Masserman suggests every company leader start by asking themselves: What is my why?
“The ‘y’ is what makes Lyft unique,” Lyft’s Head of Global Policy and Social Impact told Jessica Abo at the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles. “The ‘y’ is what makes us as individuals unique. Often times we’re doing, doing, doing and we don’t stop and ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing. For us, the ‘y’ always does come back to our values.”
Masserman says there are three initiatives at Lyft that stand out for him: providing transportation, developing transportation infrastructure and creating a clean-energy future — all under Lyft City Works.
“Lyft City Works really is an effort to go into cities and work with riders, drivers and activists and focus on transportation, access and equity. There’s three parts to it.
“The first part is providing transportation and we know there are a lot of different communities where transportation is really a barrier,” Masserman said, explaining that 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts. “We did a pilot in Washington, D.C. where we partnered with Martha’s Table and provided reduced rides to the grocery store and now we’ve expanded that across the country. Another example’s in Detroit, which has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. We partnered with Sister Friends and the Department of Health in Detroit to offer free rides to prenatal classes and appointments for women in Detroit.”
Masserman says the team at Lyft is also sensitive to people who need to get to hospitals and shelters, or when the weather drops, to warming huts. “We’re really proud of our Wheels For All initiative, which provides those rides and really proud of the drivers who are doing that great work.”
The second initiative Masserman is proud of is the work Lyft is doing to develop transportation infrastructure, which currently focuses on bikes and scooters. “We recently in Oakland partnered with TransForm to go into areas that traditionally been underserved by transportation and built bikes and scooters in those specific areas,” he said.
The third initiative is the work to create clean energy. “We know that transportation is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases,” Masserman said. “Last year, we announced all of our rides are carbon neutral, which means that over the course of last year, we purchased enough offsets to offset over two million metric tons of carbon. That’s the equivalent of 2.4 million acres of forestry. That’s not enough, we’ve also invested in electric vehicles, we’ve integrated our app into public transit and we now have bikes and scooters. We’re really taking this holistic approach to making cities more livable.”
Masserman says while Lyft is a leader in innovation and social impact, everyone has the ability to make a difference. “For other companies and entrepreneurs that want to focus on social impact, I have three pieces of advice.
“First off, it has to be authentic. You have to really care about these issues and you have to be leading with values and spell out those values up front.
“The second is you really should focus on your superpower. We do transportation, so we’re able to look at different populations where transportation is a barrier and provide access and being able to focus on that and leverage that really allows us to have a unique impact.”
Masserman says the third is that “it’s got to be rooted in action. We live in a time where it can’t just be words. Speaking out on issues is really, really important, but we all have an opportunity to also do something about it. If you can do all those things, I have no doubt that other companies and other entrepreneurs can be social impact leaders as well.”