A Step Forward On Sustainability

Adam Gromis
Sep 26, 2019 · 6 min read

Read below to learn about our new 100% renewable electricity goal, new transit and EV efforts, commitment to report on the impact of rides, release of methods for two metrics — travel efficiency and carbon intensity — to be included in a report, and new collaborations with sustainability experts.

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Ⓒ 2019 Uber Technologies Inc.

Cities face a seemingly impossible challenge over the next three decades: make room for an expected doubling of mobility demand while cutting transportation’s climate emissions more than 60% from 2010 levels. CO2 emissions from the transportation sector already account for nearly one quarter of the global total, on an energy basis. The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) reports transportation as well off-track of even 2°C scenario targets, with commitments from sector participants falling short. Mobility as usual is unsustainable. Between now and 2050, we need to find every way possible to help move a lot more people more efficiently and with significantly less climate impact.

That’s never been done before. Transportation emissions have grown faster than any other end-use sector over the last 50 years, due in large part to an ever increasing use of personally-owned, fossil-fueled vehicles which consume about half of all transportation energy. While the private automobile unlocked incredible prosperity, the sector’s over-reliance on them has plagued cities with numerous environmental consequences and other externalities for more than a century.

Last year, we joined other major technology companies to sign the Step Up Declaration to leverage our efforts for climate good. Today, we’re taking more definitive action.

For Uber, impact starts with getting our own house in order. As a first step to address emissions from corporate operations, today we pledge to power all of our US offices with 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Additionally, to improve energy and water consumption and support employee well-being, we are pursuing LEED and WELL certifications for our largest US offices including San Francisco, Dallas, New York, and Chicago. We’re proud to add this first corporate sustainability commitment to a portfolio of global citizenship efforts.

However, with the power of a global mobility platform, at Uber we have an opportunity to make a far greater environmental contribution.

Our platform helps people and things move more than 18 million times a day. Uber’s technology fundamentally aims to help more people and things move than was possible before — with existing transportation assets — through efficiency and utilization. But as we grow, we have a tremendous responsibility to help the rides we facilitate use public resources as efficiently as possible, especially roads and air, and to find more sustainable ways to help get people and things from A to B. Getting this right can help reduce the carbon impact of our platform, help drivers save on fuel, help riders get affordable, lower impact travel options, and help cities unlock more efficient mobility options.

Two strategic pillars support our sustainable mobility strategy for Uber’s platform: reducing and reporting.

We will invest in product innovations and initiatives that reduce the carbon intensity of our platform. We’re expanding Uber Transit, which over time, along with our continued efforts on micromobility, will support cities and increase car-free travel.

We’re also expanding our electric vehicle (EV) efforts by partnering with EVgo and Powerdot.

  • With EVgo, the largest public fast-charging network in the US, we will explore ways to improve EV drivers’ access to charging in major American cities.
  • Powerdot, a Portuguese start up, will work with Uber to build dedicated fast-charging infrastructure to support the hundreds of battery-electric EV drivers powering UberGreen in Lisbon and Porto.

These latest partnerships add to a growing global portfolio of partners and initiatives across dozens of cities globally — from London, to Hyderabad, to Sacramento — to help grow and address barriers to electric, shared mobility.

In London, specifically, we launched a bold Clean Air Plan to deliver our goal of ensuring every car on the Uber app is fully electric by 2025. By adding just 15p per mile to all London trips since January, we have already been able to set aside over £50m. That money is ring-fenced, with the funds committed to be used to help transition drivers into electric vehicles.

Increasing all-electric and car-free trips are clear innovation opportunities to reduce the carbon intensity of Uber’s platform. We want to go further, and look at all of the ways we’re serving mobility demand. As the old strategy consulting adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. As a data-driven company, our sustainability strategy will be rooted in measurement and reporting to more rigorously understand where we are today and how we can drive improvement tomorrow.

Today we are committing to publicly disclose the environmental impact of rides on Uber’s platform. We want to give our users, and the cities where they live and use the platform, more visibility on the impact of the trips we help facilitate.

Today, we’re releasing the methods for two key metrics we plan to disclose: travel efficiency and carbon intensity. The first, travel efficiency, looks at how well we help move people while minimizing car use. The second, carbon intensity, evaluates the emissions required for every mile traveled by every passenger on our platform.

We consulted with experts, including Fehr & Peers and the World Resources Institute (WRI), to develop the methodologies for these metrics that will help measure the environmental dimensions of Uber’s mobility platform. “To change current outcomes, transportation analysis practice would benefit from new metrics that measure efficiency and space utilization directly,” said Ron Milam, Director of Evolving the Status Quo at Fehr & Peers. “Uber’s travel efficiency metric does that while also providing a meaningful link to carbon intensity.”

“Uber’s carbon intensity metric is a strong first step in understanding the relative climate impacts of ride hailing companies,” said Emma Stewart, Director of Urban Efficiency and Climate at WRI. “Understanding the carbon impact of ride hailing companies within the transportation sector is necessary for baselining and planning a pathway to lower transportation emissions.”

We invite city and environmental experts to provide feedback on the methods we’re releasing today to help inform our approach for the coming disclosures. Uber and its partners believe these metrics will be useful to companies providing products in the transportation sector and for cities looking to understand efficiency across all modes of transportation and new policies that can drive more sustainable mobility. Uber and WRI will host several workshops over the comings months to gather input from city representatives, researchers and other experts.

The environmental challenges facing transportation are complex and many, many decades older than Uber, touching both private and public sector actors across the mobility value chain. So we’re underpinning these first steps of our sustainability strategy with collaborations. The World Resources Institute’s experts deliver science-based and rigorous research, data, tools and protocols that businesses rely on, which is why we are joining their Corporate Consultative Group to help advance our business with sustainable growth in mind. We are also a founding member of the Global New Mobility Coalition, an advocacy group joining civil society NGOs and new mobility technology companies, hosted by the World Economic Forum, that aims to unlock environmental impact in our cities through the responsible deployment of shared, electric and automated mobility technologies.

A growing body of research (e.g. ITF, UCD-ITS, LBNL) shows that a broad uptake of shared, electric and automated technology by 2050 can cut transportation emissions by more than 80%, vastly shrink the vehicle population, and dramatically curb reliance on private car ownership.

Shared, electric and automated describe a large portion of the technology portfolio in which Uber is investing. We recognize we’re new at tackling these long-standing challenges, but we are committed to addressing sustainability issues through intentional corporate practice, reducing the impact of our platform through innovation, measuring our progress and reporting results, working alongside experts, following and establishing best practice, and cultivating lasting, impactful climate solutions.

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