Freecycle -- the Craigslist alternative that connects individuals with stuff they don't need and people who want to take it off their hands -- has a built-in green element of reuse. But it also has business opportunities, according to Rupesh Shah, director of corporate sustainability at Intuit.
Shah walked the audience at the State of Green Business Forum through the process that Intuit used to bring Freecycle to employees at Intuit, and in the process learned how green teams at any company can use the tool to spur employee engagement on green issues.
The project started with Tom, a member of Intuit's own green team, who was a member of his local Freecycle group. He saw that, while Freecycle brings strangers together to trade or give goods, larger companies are full of people who spend most of their days in the same place, driving to and from the office at roughly the same time, and that it can function as a sort of Freecycle group.
"Tom had an idea," Shah explained, "Why not freecycle at the office?" Shah said that the proximity and routine sets up opportunities for many convenient exchanges, and that one of Intuit's own products, Quickbase, would pair nicely with Freecycle.
The result is something that Shah began calling "Greencycle" today at the Forum. Its more official name is Freecycle @ Work, and it turns the corporate intranet into a place where people can donate or trade items more easily.
Freecycle @ Work also overcomes what Shah called "the stranger effect."
"People don't want strangers [off of Craigslist] coming over to their houses after work to pick things up," he said. And if people want to give away items that have meaning to them, the intranet has more draw than strangers on Craigslist.
Shah gave the example of an Intuit employee that wanted to give away her recently departed father's work desk, but didn't want to give it to a stranger. Another Intuit employee who'd just transferred from India was able to take it home and put it to good use at his home office.
With 2,000 employees at Intuit using Freecycle @ Work, after eight months, Intuit is taking the model and worked with Freecycle to develop a formal partnership. Shah said Intuit sees the Freecycle @ Work program, which pairs Intuit's Quickbase with the Freecycle database, as a way to open doors to new customers and to expand seat licenses among existing customers, but Shah said the biggest value is in bringing employees together around sustainability.
"After all this work, we've proven that Freecycle @ Work was valuable," Shah told the crowd. "It could be used to engage employees around sustainability efforts."