“Cycling just makes me really happy”: Luca Gandolfi, a Business Coach in Global Customer Operations, knows that sometimes it’s the small everyday pleasures that count. Luca, who has been passionate about sustainable mobility since he was a boy, set about sharing the joys of cycling with his colleagues as soon as he joined Enel.
And so, in 2017, he decided to set up a group, a community of his coworkers who shared his passion: why not cycle to work? It is more sustainable and involves healthy outdoor physical activity.
It all began with post-its….
As Luca himself says, “Getting this message out there is useful because so many people believe the prejudice that cities are made for cars. I, on the other hand, wanted to make them realize that cycling isn’t crazy – and that also applies to urban spaces.”
His goal was to put together an Enel team to take part in the European Cycling Challenge in which the team with the most city kilometers cycled is the winner.
“Initially, I just stuck post-its on bikes parked outside Enel’s various offices in Rome in order to contact people and get them involved,” says an amused Luca. But the idea quickly gained traction way beyond his expectations with dozens of people signing up, resulting in the formation of the Enel team.
A dramatic entrance
But then Luca asked himself why should just Rome be involved: “The Enel Group has a presence in dozens of countries!” Not only that, cycling is a far more global sport than most others. Very soon Enel clubs were being formed in many other cities. As Luca explains: “It was a fun thing to do with no budget – a bit like a great big five-a-side soccer game across lots of different countries. I even wrote to our CEO Francesco Starace because I knew he loved cycling, and he replied shortly afterwards.
“The next year, Starace himself signed up,” Luca adds.
As a result, the project began to gain more and more visibility, to the extent that in 2019, it was presented at an event in the auditorium in Enel’s general headquarters attended by top management. And there was a dramatic entrance as a very emotional Luca was given special permission to cycle up to the stage from the back of the auditorium rather than just walking.
From an Excel sheet to a company platform
The time was right for this “grassroots” initiative to grow from something small into a company project complete with investment from the Group. As a result, CReW (the Enel Cycle, Run & Walk Challenge) was launched in 2020 and was open not just to cyclists but also to people who walk or run to work.
A special Enel intranet platform was developed to manage the project efficiently. “That’s a big leap, given that I used to count the kilometers done by all the participants on an Excel spreadsheet!” says Luca. “I used to do it at night – it was a massive thing, borderline crazy,” he adds with a touch of self-irony. “But it meant that I was able to help people to get to know the project and make it grow.”
Developing the new platform was another innovative experience: an agile in-house working group of keen young colleagues brought their own experience, new ideas and a breath of enthusiasm to the project, making it unique and compelling.
The new platform allows individuals as well as teams to get involved and there is also the choice to take part during leisure time, as well as during the daily commute.
The results look promising: so far, the project has spread to 18 countries with 145 clubs and 2,650 staff signing up. In all, they have cycled over 1.5 million kilometers – that’s 40 times around the world! – saving almost 260 tons of CO2 emissions in total.
Turning numbers into people
The project has a long list of benefits. Enel embraced it because it chimes perfectly with its strategy which focuses on environmental sustainability and aims to deliver on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs.
On an individual level, the clearest advantage is well-being: physical activity is good for both mind, as it reduces stress, and body, as it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. The project thus contributes to SDG #3 (Good health and well-being).
In addition to this, the club structure fosters team spirit and is thus something of a team-building activity that creates a more pleasant working environment for everyone. “This project has helped me get to know a lot of coworkers I would never have met otherwise,” says Luca. “Those little numbers on the Excel sheet have now become people. I’ve also struck up friendships outside of work with some of them and we’ve even gone on holiday together, for example,” Luca goes on to say. “The most moving part is when I get feedback from colleagues thanking me and saying that they’ve started cycling because of my initiative.”
“Before the company project was launched, I used to ask the participants to send me videos. I once got a really well-made one from Chile – you could see the commitment, time and energy that had gone into it. They clearly believed very strongly in what they were doing. I was genuinely moved and so when I had to go to Chile for work some time later, I took the opportunity to meet them in person.”
For the environment – and society
Walking and cycling reduce fuel consumption and, as a result, carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. In terms of SDG #13 (Climate action), there is a direct contribution in terms of getting people personally cycling, walking or running, and an indirect one as the project gains visibility and thereby helps raise awareness of sustainable mobility themes in the wider community.
Cutting emissions also means less air pollution, and less traffic and noise pollution in cities: all factors that improve quality of life and contribute to SDG #11 (Sustainable cities and communities): so CReW doesn’t just improve the health of the participants but also that of their fellow citizens, by helping to make the air cleaner.
Lastly, from a financial point of view, the participants save money on fuel while simultaneously helping the cycling sector production chain and, by the same token, that of the clean mobility sector.
Well-being, the environment, quality of life and sustainable mobility are just some of the core values on which our strategy and our relationship with people are founded. The CReW project is part of the Enel model, an approach centered around listening and placing value on good ideas from everyone: in other words, it is a small demonstration of how our Group intends to act in its role as a key player in the journey to sustainability.