What do you do when you realise you’ve fallen short in living your values in your business? You double down on getting real with what you mean, say and do. 

Coherence is one principle I strive to practice through my business. For example, what I hold as values, such as justice, honesty, and sustainability, need to be reflected in every nook and cranny of my business, including my newsletter. 

Last week, I shared with you the event, GOODCon Europe and a line up of speakers I was interested in learning from. One of the speakers was the Director of Social Impact for Lyft, a ride-hailing company based in the US. 

GOODCon and the people behind it, brought together some incredible businesses and organisations that contribute deep value to society, with coherence and integrity. 

However, Lyft stood out as out of character. Including it in my line up of speakers surprised one of my subscribers; someone who I respect, and have known for decades.

What was unknown to me was that Lyft, Uber and other gig economy app-based ride-hailing and delivery services, led a campaign in California in 2020 against a change in law, so as to keep drivers from becoming employees, eligible for sick leave and expense reimbursement benefits and job protections (CBS News article dated Nov 2020).

The companies spent $200 million on advertisements, inundating “gig workers and customers alike with in-app notifications and emails suggesting that drivers wanted to remain independent contractors and that a yes vote would be best for them.” (LA Times)

“The outcome was a defeat for labor unions that had pushed for a state law aimed directly at Uber and Lyft, mandating that they provide drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses.”

Whilst the companies did say independent contractors would receive some “alternative benefits,” including a guaranteed minimum wage and subsidies for health insurance if they average 25 hours of work a week,” these alternative benefits would amount to less than what they would be entitled to as employees (CBS News article dated Nov 2020).

Further, both Lyft and Uber threatened to leave California or raise prices and cut jobs if their contractors had to become employees under the law. 

The campaign by these companies was so successful, they are considering using it across the US. 

So, what is Lyft doing in terms of social impact, given this behaviour? 

Lyft produced its first Environmental, Social and Governance report in July 2020. Whilst it states that it is focused on doing the right thing, has delivered free rides to neighbourhoods and people needing transport during COVID, as well as other admirable strategies, it does say it is dedicated to upholding human rights, and running its business in an ethical way.

However, the campaign against making drivers employees, which manipulated messaging and focused on bottom line outcomes and maintaining a business model which has contractors receiving less money and benefits than mandated in law, highlights an incongruence between espoused social impact commitments and lived values. 

What I do believe is that businesses for good, that are having a real social impact, have at their heart a noble purpose and values. This heart influences the head – strategy, operations and systems – and hands – behaviours, decision making, practices, products, and services.

Yes, taking steps to have an impact is essential for businesses in 2021, however, so is being coherent. 

Impact needs to be integrated and not old-school CSR or charity, where the impact is tacked on: “Hey look, we’re doing these great things over here, but don’t worry to much about our main business, that’s just business.”

For me, when I share examples of businesses with you, I need to be clear why they are important examples and are worth your time and attention – for example, where from my perspective they are doing well, and where they are not, and how they can do better. I also need to be coherent, and be transparent where this has not been the case. 

What is your take on Lyft and Uber? What else about their story do I need to know? Am I being too hard on Lyft, given we live in a world where it is difficult to be really good? Have you held up a company as an entity worth learning from, and ethical, only to find out that perhaps it was all just hype? 

Seeking the truth is another of my principles. I am grateful to my subscriber for pointing out his surprise and that it encouraged me to take the step to investigate and share my explorations with you. 

We run a series of programs and workshops to help you build and run a values-driven enterprise, from identifying and activating your unique values, to articulating your purpose.