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VOICES IN SUSTAINABILITY: 

Conversation with Kristin Sverchek

General Counsel, Lyft

· General Counsel,Leadership,ESG

Rose Ors: The company states that its culture is a key differentiator. What are the most significant components of Lyft's culture?

Kristin Sverchek: The most significant cultural component is the emphasis Logan Green and John Zimmer, our co-founders, have on being a values-driven company. That emphasis has been consistent since I first met them about nine and a half years ago as outside counsel. It is something that drew me to join the company over seven years ago as its first general counsel.

The overarching value that drives the company is reflected in our mission statement: “To improve people's lives with the world's best transportation.” This is our north star and from here we have developed three core values: Make it Happen, Be Yourself and Uplift Others.

Rose Ors: How do these three values manifest themselves?

Kristin Sverchek: We foster an environment that encourages everyone to take initiative. We not only allow, we actively encourage, people to come to work as they are. And we make sure we are empathetic to our fellow employees as well as to the world at large.

Rose Ors: Improving people's lives is a pretty broad mandate. How does Lyft go about achieving this goal?

Kristin Sverchek: We work to improve people's lives in three ways. First, socially, by providing a platform that encourages people and their communities to come together. Second, economically, by providing affordable transportation to riders and flexible earnings to drivers. And, finally, environmentally, by redesigning how transportation is accessed.

Rose Ors: How does that translate into the services you offer?

Kristin Sverchek: It goes all the way back to the Zimride days, which was a carpool matching service Logan and John launched in 2007. In a very simple way, Zimride fostered a sense of community by having people share rides. Having them share costs benefited them financially. To the extent that people who would have been driving their cars instead became passengers it helped the environment by reducing the number of vehicle trips.

Those same principles apply to what Lyft does today, but on a much broader scale. Our social impact team, headed by Mike Masserman, has implemented numerous programs that help create a sense of community through providing transportation. For example, to encourage voter turnout we launched the Ride to Vote program. In 2018, the program provided 50% off the cost of rides to polling locations via organizations such as Vote.org. Our Wheels for All program offers free rides to shelters, hospitals, or evacuation centers in communities hit by natural disasters. This program also helps those seeking to better themselves financially by offering free rides to training classes and job interviews.

Rose Ors: Lyft has committed to achieving full carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy usage. How is that going?

Kristin Sverchek: Thanks to the excellent work of Sam Arons, our director of sustainability, this past year Lyft has been one of the world’s largest voluntary purchasers of carbon offsets, which makes every Lyft ride carbon neutral. We’re also focusing heavily on reducing emissions through a transition to a fully electrified fleet and as a company constantly exploring the best path forward to achieve a full sustainable future for Lyft and for our cities. In 2018, we also committed to purchasing enough renewable energy to cover the electricity consumption of every Lyft office space, driver hubs, and electric vehicle mile driven via our platform.

Rose Ors: Having achieved those short-term goals, what is Lyft looking to achieve longer term?

Kristin Sverchek: A key long-term goal is to transition to a fully electrified fleet, an ambitious goal that will take years to accomplish. We are trying to increase demand for electric vehicle rides by adding Green Mode to our app. It gives riders the option to request a hybrid or electric vehicle for their ride. We are trying to increase the supply of electric vehicles by making them available to drivers through our Express Drive rental program.

In November 2019, we made the single largest development of EVs in Colorado history, and one of the largest in the United States, by deploying vehicles in Colorado as part of our Flexdrive program. This was for me really notable because we were able to do it in partnership with the state and with the support of Governor Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock. Under a new law, ride share rental programs qualify for an EV tax credit at the same level as consumers, which is up to $5,000 per vehicle. We are encouraging other politicians to follow in Colorado's footsteps.

Rose Ors: What is Lyft’s approach in working with regulators?

Kristin Sverchek. Our co-founders’ passionate belief in the benefits of the Lyft platform has them open to embracing any group one who can help the company achieve its mission. We are not one of those companies that gives regulators the stiff arm and refuses to talk to them. We take the opposite approach. For example, on my first day on the job, I went with John and Logan to explain to the California Public Utilities Commission what our platform did. We wanted to assure them we are aligned with what they care about. Being open to sitting down and talking with regulators is how we conduct business.

Rose Ors: You offer other mobility services besides cars, such as bikes and scooters, and promote the use of public transportation. How does that fit in a rideshare company?

Kristin Sverchek: This actually goes back to the company's mission statement to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation. Although ride sharing was the initial focus of the platform, I don't think our co-founders ever saw that as a natural ending point. The best transportation platform has to include more than shared rides, because even with the lower cost Lyft can provide, not everyone can afford those rides.

Bikes and scooters will be our most affordable transportation option, and will extend mobility to communities that historically have been underserved. They will not be a substitute for trips of extended length, but they will be able to bridge the first and last mile gap. We will make it easy for passengers to use bikes and scooters to connect to transit. Our bike and scooter integration is being built from the ground up to encourage transit usage. Soon you will be able to get real-time transit information to plan a multimodal trip.

Rose Ors: Finally, I would like to address an important issue—the safety and security of your riders and drivers. Lyft announced a pilot safety program with the security company, ADT. What can you tell us about the pilot?

Kristin Sverchek: In January, we started to roll out real-time assistance from ADT in ten cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles. If a rider or driver is in a situation where he or she feels unsafe, pilot users will be able to signal to ADT that they are in need of assistance. The user would then be connected to one of ADT’s monitoring centers, where an ADT security professional would alert authorities as needed so they can arrive at the user’s location, equipped with detailed incident information. We think ADT's extensive infrastructure provides another level of security. Without a strong user sense of trust and safety, the platform doesn't work. Thus, we believe it is incumbent upon us to continue offering features that enhance safety for both riders and drivers.

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