Driving down carbon emissions: how BlaBlaCar’s model reduces its environmental footprint by increasing its profits

Quick background on BlaBlaCar… 

Before INSEAD had officially adopted the slogan “Force for Good”, Frédéric Mazzella and Nicolas Brusson were wandering the storied of halls of our school’s Fontainebleau campus scheming how to launch a transportation solution that was at once more efficient, convenient and connected. 

The two went on to launch BlaBlaCar, a global carpooling network that allows people to find and fill empty seats in cars heading towards their desired destination. And this was over a decade ago. Pre-Uber. Pre-mass adoption of the smartphone. 

The result? Cost savings for drivers and passengers, curbing carbon emissions by optimizing the capacity of cars already on the road to take people from A to B, and sparking little bit of  “magic” by engendering positive interactions among carpoolers.

The carpooling company has become one of Europe’s most celebrated unicorns (valued at over $1 Billion), and has developed a triple bottom line model so successful that the company now boasts a network of over 75 million members in 22 countries. 

Why this is SO EXCITING…

The shared mobility space has boomed in the past few years. Yes, securing a ride from your phone is convenient and often cheaper than other alternatives, but carpooling also plays a critical role in reducing some of transportation’s greatest ills: congestion and pollution. BlaBlaCar has reached a scale where its operations can have a notable impact on the planet. 

Meet Verena…

“Sustainability is in our DNA. It’s part of why we were created.”

Verena Butt d’Espous | Head of Corporate Communications | BlaBlaCar

Verena Butt d’Espous is Head of Corporate Communications at BlaBlaCar, a fellow INSEAD alumn and triple bottom line enthusiast (she worked previously in the sustainability investment space).

As part of the executive committee at BlaBlaCar, Verena shared with us the company’s vision and strategy for scaling its operations whilst reducing its carbon footprint.

“Sustainability is in our DNA. It’s part of why we were created” Verena explains. “We use technology to optimize wasted capacity. We fill empty seats in cars and buses alike to make road transport for efficient and friendly”.  And the company’s founder even walks the talk by doing his best to avoid taking planes: Frédéric Mazzella, Founder & President is so conscious of his carbon footprint for example, he hasn’t flown in 11 months despite invitations to speak at conferences around the world.  

On the Market Opportunity… 

BlaBlaCar currently sits on a valuation of $1.7 billion, and has just entered the (BlaBla) bus space by acquiring leading French bus operator Ouibus and start expanding its network across Europe. By the end of the year, BlaBlaCar plans to offer rides via  BlaBlaBus to 400 destinations in 10 countries.

Plus, policymakers are typically helping drive further business through the creation of HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes in some cities and carpooling meeting points to enable easy pickups and drop off before toll stations for example.

On SDGs and sustainability…

As discussed, shared mobility has the potential to lower transportation’s carbon footprint, while increasing access to travel option. In the EU alone, cars contribute to approximately 12% of total CO2emissions. On average there are 1.9 people in a car, which means there are likely at least 3 seats available… BlaBlaCar increases these numbers to 3.9 people per car.

According to BlaBlaCar’s report #ZeroEmptySeats, the company saved 1.6 million tonnes of CO2in 2018. This impressive figure is a mix of several environmentally friendly elements of the company’s model: relative efficiency of  sharing a car, compared to other transportation options, route and driving optimization (algorithms for matching riders and drivers are becoming smarter and smarter), and informal carpoolings that BlaBlaCar inspired outside its platform. 

Our big takeaways 

BlaBlaCar has tapped into the incredible power of aligning interests (of people, of our planet and of the company’s shareholders…):

  • driver saves money 
  • rider saves money 
  • BlaBlaCar makes money 
  • fewer cars on the road reduce carbon emissions 
  • more social interactions make people happier  
  • the planet and all its living creatures are healthier 

Sources: 

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