The Communauto case examines a carsharing company headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The case focuses primarily on Communauto’s CEO, Benoit Robert, and covers the company’s evolution and emergence as a standard-bearer for the carsharing concept in North America. Whereas many social entrepreneurship cases focus on translating a ‘concept’ into a sustainable enterprise, this case is different in that Communauto is already established and financially viable. Thus, students examine how the founder can build on his success and continue to pursue his ambitious goal of significantly reducing private car ownership in order to minimize the environmental burden of personal transportation.
At the center of the analysis is the tension that underlies this successful carsharing venture. On the one hand, like any other entrepreneur, Benoit wants to grow his organization and increase its membership. On the other, he is a social entrepreneur steadfastly committed to reducing the environmental impact of individual transportation by changing driving behavior through carsharing. Meeting these objectives is challenging because, even though many North Americans are aware of carsharing as a phenomenon, the majority misunderstand the concept, and in particular, its economic appeal for many urban car owners.
In this case, students assess an organization’s accomplishments using not just economic criteria but also the normative aspirations of its founder, which are more social in nature. In doing so, students will analyze how Communauto is faring and address the founder’s core concern: how to position Communauto to continue attracting and retaining members while simultaneously leading them towards environmentally preferable transportation choices?
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