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When Greg Gormley woke up in an intensive care unit, he knew he was lucky to be alive. The successful tech entrepreneur had been involved in a motorbike accident that had left him with substantial injuries. While recovering, Greg reflected on his life and decided he wanted to give something back to the world. He began building an app that would create safer, greener travel for anyone who uses a car. Here, he shares his story.

Climate change is one of the most momentous challenges humanity faces. Over the past year alone we have seen the frequency and intensity of extreme weather increase in many parts of the world. Earlier this month the UN released the latest IPCC report, giving a comprehensive but sobering insight into the ways human activity is responsible for climate change, and how it is up to us to prevent a climate catastrophe.  

One of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions is private transport. In 2020, when the UK was in lockdown, motorists still managed to drive 206 billion miles in their cars globally. 

Travel is an intrinsic part of our everyday lives – but with the climate on a knife edge, how can we travel in a carbon efficient way? This is the dilemma SKOOT and its Founder and CEO Greg Gormley are working to solve.  

“People know to recycle what they can, they know not to waste water, and more and more people are eating less meat – but what do we do about our cars?” Greg says.  

SKOOT is the world’s first navigation app that offsets driver’s carbon emissions and reduces the number of cars on the road.   

Greg began his career as an accountant before transitioning into the world of technology and working for large Nasdaq listed businesses including News Corporation.

After years of international travel, Greg, who had recently started a family, decided to take a step back from the corporate world and began working with SMEs. 

In 2014, Greg founded the hugely successful loyalty payment app Bink, which raised £30m in its first four years.  

Then on 22 June, 2018, the course of Greg’s life changed completely.  

“I was involved in a motorcycling accident and was airlifted to hospital. My injuries were severe, and it took months to recover. I had to learn to walk again,” Gregg recalls.  

By the time Greg was ready to return to work, the company he’d built had moved on.  

“Six months had passed and it didn’t feel right just jumping back in. I effectively handed in my notice and for the first time in my life I had nothing to do. 

“After my crash, I knew I was lucky to be alive and it triggered a reset in my life,” Greg continued. “I thought, ‘if I had died, what would they say about me and what would my businesses have stood for?  

“I knew then that I wanted to give something back and build a business with a strong social purpose.”   

In early 2019, while still in recovery, Greg began working on an app inspired by his daughter, who had recently passed her driving test. Millie told her dad that she and her friends were giving each other lifts for a small fee, rather than using an expensive taxi service. 

“I originally wanted to build an app for her and her network of friends, where they could book and pay each other for lifts,” Greg explains. “I asked my daughter what the pain points for her were and she identified navigation and payment, and we took it from there.”  

As the idea evolved and more opportunities were explored, Greg began thinking about shared journeys and how they could help people like his daughter, while having a positive effect on the planet.  

The former business consultant aspired to build something similar to hitchhiking app BlahBlahCar (valued at around $2bn) but with some enhanced safety features – so he’d feel safe letting his daughter use it. Slowly SKOOT began to form.  

“We wanted people to be able to book rides but also encourage people to share journeys with others.

"Take music festivals for example. Their biggest carbon footprint is through people traveling to them. If we could encourage people to share rides, we could offset this significantly.” 

Carbon negative, not neutral  

The drive towards carbon negative travel became the focal point for SKOOT.  

“We didn’t just want to create carbon neutral transport, we wanted it to be carbon negative. We came up with the idea of offsetting the carbon released on our users’ journeys by planting trees,” the entrepreneur explains.  

“The ‘greenwashing’ issue was a big concern of ours, so we spent a long time looking for the right tree planting partner. When we found the Eden Project, we knew it was right for SKOOT”.  

The Eden Deforestation Project is a non-profit organization that works with impoverished communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America, hiring local people to plant trees.  

“The Eden Project is about the sustainability of life through reforestation. The people they employ to plant the trees are also paid to maintain them, meaning the trees are cared for and the community is supported. It’s a real win-win for us.” 

One million trees 

SKOOT’s key ambition is to reduce the number of cars on the road by encouraging drivers to car share, however, the coronavirus pandemic hampered this ambition.  

“We know that lockdown has changed the way people travel”, Greg admits. 

“When people began to return to work, we surveyed around 2,000 people and found that 40% were reluctant to use public transport. So we’re seeing more cars on the road and most only have one person in them. 

“We understand the barriers created by COVID-19, and we don’t want drivers to feel guilty for travelling in a way they feel safe,”Greg continues

“That’s why we launched the one million tree challenge. Through a crowdfunding campaign, we raised the funds to purchase one million trees. Whenever a driver makes a journey and logs it on the SKOOT app, we’ll plant a tree – making the journey carbon negative.” 

After the first one million trees have been planted, SKOOT will continue to encourage drivers to car share where possible. But if car sharing isn’t possible, users will be able to purchase trees, offsetting their carbon emissions for a small cost. 

SKOOT for businesses  

So, how exactly does SKOOT work? When you download the app, you enter your name, the registration of your car and your driving license. SKOOT then checks your details with the DVLA to ensure your car has up to date tax and MOT. It also pulls through the CO2 rating of your vehicle.  

This allows SKOOT to establish how much carbon you emit on each journey you make.  

SKOOT is aimed at anyone who uses a car to travel, however, Greg says the company is hoping to strengthen its appeal to businesses using fleet cars..  

“With COP26 taking place in November, we are committed to helping businesses reach their carbon net zero targets. 

“As a business, you can create a SKOOT dashboard and ask your staff to sign up to the platform. Then, you’ll see your daily carbon footprint being offset by the trees being planted. 

“SKOOT will also identify any of your staff who could potentially carshare to work. If they have an overlap of 80% or more on their journey, SKOOT will prompt them to share – meaning fewer cars on sight and less carbon emitted.” 

Drivers who carshare with SKOOT are also able to recoup 45p per mile travelled, in line with the HMRC allowance.  

Today, SKOOT is being used in 15 countries and is currently in the process of receiving its B Corp certification.   

Greg concludes: “The more journeys that are made using the SKOOT app, the better it is for the planet. We want drivers to be aware of their carbon emissions and, with our help, take responsibility for offsetting those emissions.” 

Key takeaways  

  • SKOOT is the World’s first navigation app which offsets diver’s carbon emission by planting trees in deforested areas across the world.  
  • SKOOT is partnered with the Eden Reforestation Project, a non-profit organization that works with impoverished communities, providing employment through reforestation.  

Want to read more inspirational business journeys? Head over to the UMi Platform 

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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