Thomas Cook Takes the Road Less Traveled
By Samuel Greengard
For years, businesses and government agencies have attempted to introduce ride share programs. These programs save money and alleviate stress for employees, while also helping trim carbon emissions.
However, it isn't easy to match employees based on where they live and then get them to carpool on a regular basis. Many workers find the process time-consuming and cumbersome, and some fear they will wind up stranded.
Thomas Cook, a large leisure travel and tour operator headquartered in London, believes it has found the solution to this challenging issue. In April, it began using a new service, TwoGo by SAP, to shift its ride-sharing initiative into high gear at its continental Europe offices near Frankfurt, Germany.
"Sustainability is a huge issue, and it is becoming more important all the time," says Julian Clemenz, vice president, Sustainability Management, for Thomas Cook.
Three years ago, the company developed a sustainability vision, Clemenz notes. Part of the initiative focused on how the company's offices could decrease their carbon footprint and how employees could adopt greener practices.
One way Thomas Cook does that is by using a Web-based version of TwoGo to match employees looking to share rides. About 100 commuters signed up during the pilot phase at the company's main office in Germany, which employs about 1,300 people. However, the firm will soon roll out the application to other offices in Europe and beyond. Worldwide, the company employs about 30,000 people.
The cloud-based software is easy to use, Clemenz says. An employee looking for a match simply heads to the company Website and enters his or her home and business locations, working hours and preferences—such as a willingness to exit a highway to pick up another commuter. The software displays potential matches, shows itineraries and auto generates invitations via e-mail and SMS.
When two users agree to share a ride, the TwoGo system generates iCal- compatible notifications that populate in Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Google systems and Apple devices.
The software can be used across multiple organizations, and it includes a built-in algorithm that greatly reduces the odds of anyone becoming stranded. It can manage different working hours on different days and accommodate times when an individual doesn't have a car available.
There's also a mobile version of the software, which runs on iOS and other major manufacturers' devices. In addition, the ride share software can be used to manage corporate fleets.
Clemenz says that the social networking character of the tool differentiates it from other systems. "It allows people who don't know each other and otherwise wouldn't find it each other to share rides," he explains. It is simple to use and delivers a high level of convenience.
"We hope to significantly increase the number of users and build the application into the business. It addresses a very real problem and provides benefits for everyone involved."