Have you noticed the words “sustainable” and “sustainability” everywhere? They’ve made their way into popular culture—in magazines, on billboards and well, toilet paper packaging. But what do they mean and why should we care?
In the world of business, “Sustainability” is the new Corporate Social Responsibility. Its efforts affect a set of measurements known as the “triple bottom line”:
People. Planet. Profit.
The triple bottom line is the measure of the social (people), environmental (planet) and financial (profit) impact on an organization. It’s a more responsible way to measure success because it recognizes that financial gain alone is not a sustainable way to grow. If our people and our planet are not healthy, business cannot thrive.
So, why talk about sustainability in a bike blog? Because bikes, more than any other single technology, support the triple bottom line. Very simply:
People: Riding a bike makes people more fit, healthy, and productive
Planet: Riding a bike creates no CO2 emissions or other pollution
Profit: Riding a bike to work saves employees and employers a lot of money
Bikes in an organizational setting address initiatives like employee wellness, environmental affairs and fiscal responsibility. When organized into a fully integrated program, bikes become an engine (ahem) of sustainability.
And that’s why a comprehensive and integrated bike share program is a real boon to any organization that’s committed to sustainability. The return on investment in all three areas is real and measurable.
More and more companies and universities have come to this realization and have woven their bike share programs into their sustainability efforts.
From Kimberly Clarke: “We’re encouraging our employees to take sustainable action in their lives and in their communities.”
The company supports employees with discounts at local bike shops, secure bike parking, a fitness center with lockers and showers, a company bike fleet for its “Bikes on Campus” program, and monthly cash incentives for regular riders. Each year they hold a “Bike for Life” week with workplace presentations on bike maintenance and safety.
Facebook has made a serious commitment to its bike share program, knowing that it has a positive and lasting impact to their sustainability efforts.
“Over the years, we’ve focused on providing sustainable green transportation alternatives to our employees, as well as helping our local neighborhood do the same,” said Jessica Herrera, Transportation Manager at Facebook.
“These efforts have included providing bicycles to our employees to use on or off campus, helping to re-stripe the roads around our neighborhood for the safety of cyclists in the area, and offering bicycle repairs onsite. Our employees are enthusiastic about these efforts, many choosing to cycle to work each day and others participating in events such as Bike to Work Day.”
Strong bike share programs help to attract and retain good people.
David Wilson from Accenture says that good cycling opportunities are important to the well-educated 25- to 35 year-olds he seeks to hire. “Five years ago, I don’t think business people were even thinking about bikes as a part of business. Today it’s definitely part of the discussion.”
Companies like Google, General Mills, Apple, Hewlett Packard and Williams-Sonoma, as well as universities like Stanford, Duke and Princeton, have all made the commitment to integrated bike share programs.
The fact that leaders of industry and higher education are investing in bike share programs is a sure sign of its impact on their bottom line. And not just on the one that measures financial profit, but the equally important ones that measure social and environmental gains.
“Sustainability” has become a part of our daily lexicon. Like its very name, it will be here for a very long time. And that’s a good thing – for all of us.
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