The Good Dive: How do Uber, Lyft and other unicorns fare on sustainability?

Pinterest, Levi’s, Zoom, Beyond Meat, Lyft and most recently Uber.

Six big names, six IPOs, six seemingly progressive businesses.

All will soon be available on Goodments where you can own a piece, so let’s see how they rank in sustainability and what standard are they’re setting as leaders of a new wave of public companies?

Over the last few months, we’ve seen these brands go public, all valued at over the magic $1bn mark making them officially ‘unicorns’. Collectively worth over $100bn.

They’re progressive businesses.  Companies redefining categories and leading a new economy. These are the places we aspire to work and chances are you’ve used one of their products.

In the days of high customer expectations of a company’s social and environmental responsibility, shouldn’t businesses designed today have sustainability built into the core? So which ones do and which don’t.

Some of these names, Uber, in particular, are not synonymous with having a strong focus on the planet, people or being an emblem for doing business in the most ethical way.

So the details of our list might surprise you.

Pinterest Inc. (PINS)
IPO Valuation: $12bn
Commitment to social impact: No

The inspiration platform. Pinterest has over 250m users and is a great source of inspiration for all things sustainable. Surprisingly Pinterest offers no insight into their own stance on sustainability or impact.

Zoom Video Communications, Inc (ZOOM)
IPO Valuation: $9bn
Commitment to social impact: No

We’ve all Zoomed! One of the few high profile tech startups to be turning a profit, Zoom provides a video-first communications platform that changes how people interact. Zoom is another that doesn’t offer insight into their own stance on sustainability or impact.  For a brand that creates moments of connection, it’s a shame not see any stance or objectives around communities and people.  

Levi Strauss & Co (LEVI)
IPO Valuation: $6.6bn
Commitment to social impact: Yes

The iconic American company and inventor of the blue jean.  With sales in more than 110 countries, Levi’s are one of the world’s leading apparel companies.

This company has sustainability at its core.  The founder, Levi Strauss, was known for being committed to integrity, philanthropy and being a good corporate citizenship and today Levi’s operates on “profits through principles.” Which means doing business in an ethical way and ensuring that the people who make their products are treated fairly. It means sourcing in a responsible manner and investing in innovative and more sustainable ways to make their products. Finally, it means using influence as a successful business with global reach and powerful brands to advocate for social good and to give back to communities.

Among a number of Levi’s objectives, they are focussing on revolutionising denim production, by reducing water usage by 96%. They have now recycled 200m litres of water.  By 2020 Levi’s aim to be 100% sustainable cotton and 100% hazardous chemical free. They also focus on their community, supporting over 190,000 employees to date with health, equality and financial wellbeing initiatives

Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat Inc (BYND)
IPO Valuation: $1.5bn
Commitment to social impact: Yes

Redefining how we think about meat, Beyond Meat is one of the fastest growing food companies in the United States.  Using plant proteins, rather than animal proteins, they create revolutionary plant-based meats, disarmingly similar in taste, texture and sensation to popular animal-based meat.

Sustainable by nature, Beyond Meat produces ‘meat’ in a far more efficient and sustainable way when compared to traditional natural meat.  A peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by the University of Michigan compared the environmental impact of The Beyond Burger to a ¼ lb. U.S. beef burger. The study concluded that to produce a Beyond Meat burger, it uses an estimated 99% less water, 93% less land, produces 90% fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions and uses 46% less energy.

Lyft Inc (LYFT)
IPO Valuation: $24bn
Commitment to social impact: Yes

Lyft started a movement to revolutionize transportation. Launching a peer-to-peer marketplace for on-demand ridesharing in 2012. Today, Lyft is one of the largest and fastest-growing multimodal transportation networks in the United States and Canada. To date, they have facilitated over one billion rides.

Lyft has made a number of sustainability commitments, the most notable being a $50m (or 1% of profits) annual commitment to community transport projects. Additionally through their Roundup & Donate feature they have drivers and Lyft have donated over $10m to various causes.  They also provide free transport services to those in need, such as people with low vision, the hard of hearing and people with mobility challenges.

They’re ambitious when it comes to the environment.  Targeting that all electric autonomous vehicles operating on the Lyft platform will be powered by 100% renewable energy.  Reducing CO2 emissions for the U.S. transportation sector as a whole by at least 5 million tons per year by 2025.

Uber Technologies Inc (UBER)
IPO Valuation: $80bn
Commitment to social impact: Yes

Uber has almost single-handedly revolutionized personal mobility with Ridesharing and are now leveraging their platform to redefine the massive meal delivery and Logistics Industries.

And yes they do have a commitment to environmental impact, a leading cause of Uber when they first launched. Uber’s broad but unspecific sustainability goal is to make every journey a shared one – when more people move with fewer, fuller, and more efficient cars, they may help save fuel, improve air quality, and increase a transportation system’s efficiency with each trip.

So who wins?
All are revolutionising their industries, whether it be fashion, food or transportation and with it have great potential to bring massive, global economic and sustainable change. Pinterest and Zoom need to be challenged to think about the impact they can have on the world around them and how they want to give back.

Uber has a global stronghold and Lyft is widespread across North America. Both have great potential but will their indiscretions around employee welfare offset any other good they can do? And do they truly believe in their sustainability goal, or is it simply an inherited outcome of their business models?

However, for me, Beyond Meat is our winner. It has the potential to completely change how we think about the entire food chain from farming to transport, even to how we cook. They have every chance of taking food into the future that every sci movie from the 80’s and 90’s once imagined and at the same time save the planet!.

What do you think?


Goodments ranks companies and funds for things like corporate transparency & environmental sustainability. Find out more about how we rank companies based on these measures and many others here

This article is part of the monthly Good Dive from Goodments. A look into the sustainability of investments, brands and funds. Sign up by downloading the app here.


*The comparison contained in this blog are sourced from directly from the named company websites,  sustainability websites as well as the NASDAQ “recent IPO” list.