We recently spoke with Mike Masserman, head of social impact at Lyft, about how the transportation network company creates value by leading with values.
Keep reading to learn the latest about Lyft’s positive impact initiatives and find out what inspired Mike, an avid surfer and hiker, to work on sustainability, as well as his personal contribution for younger generations.
SB: What project are you most excited about right now?
MM: We’re currently working on several exciting projects through Lyft City Works. Launched in conjunction with our recent initial public offering (IPO), Lyft City Works aims to maximize the positive impact we can have on our cities through grassroots transportation initiatives, including developing transportation infrastructure and creating a clean energy future. It’s important to note that the manner in which it comes to life is in partnership with our community of local drivers, passengers, community leaders and civic activists.
In particular, I’m really excited about a recent Lyft City Works partnership with Transform, a local nonprofit in Oakland, CA, through which Lyft will be able to place bikes and scooters in traditionally underserved areas of Oakland.
Another Lyft City Works initiative I’m energized about is improving access to healthy foods through the Lyft Grocery Access Program. Approximately 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, and transportation can have an enormous impact on a family’s ability to gain access to a grocery store. We launched this program in Washington, D.C., earlier this year and are excited to now expand the effort and impact across the country.
I also want to point out an initiative we have in Detroit called SisterFriends, where in partnership with the City’s Department of Health we are providing free rides to prenatal appointments and classes for women. Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, and having access to transportation for prenatal care has proven to be an important element of the program’s success.
SB: How is social or environmental innovation driving value for your business?
MM: I firmly believe that leading with values creates value, which is attested by several studies. For example, according to a Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study, 78 percent of Americans believe companies must do more than just make a profit. They must positively impact society, as well. Also, 77 percent feel a stronger emotional connection to purpose-driven companies over traditional companies. We see this play out in our own company, where 97 percent of employees come to Lyft and stay because of our values and social-impact work.
Social and environmental innovation is in our DNA. Lyft’s mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation; therefore, focusing on the social, economic and environmental impact we have on the cities where we operate is integral to our definition of success. We made that point loud and clear by launching Lyft City Works during our IPO, shining a light on the point that we are not only a public company now, but a public company invested in the public good.
SB: What inspires and drives you to work on sustainability?
MM: I grew up surfing and hiking, and I love to be outdoors. I also believe that climate change is the biggest threat to our planet, and that we all have a responsibility to take action. I work at a company where our founders are also passionate about doing all we can to combat climate change. I was very proud about Lyft’s decision to become 100 percent carbon neutral last year.
Beyond carbon neutrality, we’re taking a holistic approach to sustainability by making investments in electric vehicles, integrating our app with public transit, and scaling Lyft bikes and scooters across the country. Having lived in cities most of my life, I love the vision of building cities around people not cars, and making cities more ‘liveable’. Here at Lyft, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create the kind of cities that we want to live in—and that’s definitely inspiring to me!
SB: Can you share something about yourself that would surprise us? Any hidden talents?
MM: Yes, I’m a children’s book author. My brothers and I launched Chasing It All Publishing last year and put out our first book called, ‘Chasing The Sun’. It’s a story about a turtle named Tiki who lives on an island and goes on an adventure trying to find out where the sun goes after it sets. The book touches on the effects of climate change and focuses on the notion of enjoying the journey (spoiler alert: he never finds the sun). Fun fact: it was the #1 Children’s Turtle Book on Amazon for the first few months since its launch!
SB: If you had unlimited time and resources, on what type of work would you want to collaborate with fellow SB Members?
MM: I’d love to work on a revamped Civics 101 course for our country. When I worked in the Obama Administration, I always loved how President Obama ended his State of the Union speeches—talking about this notion of ‘citizenship’. We all come from diverse and amazing backgrounds and, even if we disagree on almost everything, there’s a manner in which we can still engage on issues, care about communities and have a civil conversation.
My Grandfather immigrated from what is now the Ukraine at the turn of the century, and as a journalist, he was quite politically involved and opinionated. But he was somebody who could always have politically charged conversations and then say “while I disagree with everything you said, I appreciate you taking the time to talk, and I learned something new from your perspective.” That kind of civility is lacking in our society these days, and I’d love for us to tackle that through whatever platforms we can.
I was also recently talking with a friend about a new kind of ROI (return on involvement). But I don’t have enough space here to get into it… ask me about it next time you see me!
SB: Why is your participation in the SB Member Network important?
MM: I am ‘new’ at being a social impact practitioner and am excited to learn from others—what has worked, what hasn't and how to be humble around the notion that not everyone cares deeply about issues like sustainability. We have a lot of work still to do, and it’s important for us to spread this message outside of our networks instead of just talking to ourselves. I also love how innovative and creative this network is, and how we can all push each other to test the bounds of what’s possible in our respective roles.
SB: Anything else you'd like to share with fellow SB Members?
MM: For those of us lucky enough to do this work, we have an obligation to lead with our values in an authentic and meaningful way, and hold each other accountable for doing that.
I also believe that we have an opportunity to re-imagine social impact as rooted in policies that will have broad and sustainable impact, and use not just our platforms but our voice to call for the kind of change in policies we need today.
Finally, I do very much believe we need to take as many deep breaths as we can, get outside, and enjoy the journey—once you read Chasing the Sun to your kids, grandkids, nieces/nephews and friends, you’ll understand!