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Chegg.com – A Sustainable and Innovative Business Model

Tue, Aug 24, 2010

Online Marketing

As a university student who is gearing up for a new semester, I had so much to think about: moving all my belongings into my dorm room, completing class registration, and buying all my textbooks. One process I dread is purchasing my books; the requirements for each class seem to drain my bank account of a few hundred of the hard-earned dollars I earned over the summer. Thankfully I found a new book resource that’s more convenient, easier on my wallet, and certainly much more green than the usual alternatives. Chegg.com allows me to rent my books at a cheap price, then return them at the end of the semester. For every book I rent, Chegg plants a tree. Many of Chegg’s practices exemplify how sustainability is a key driver of innovation.

How it Works

  • At Chegg, you can rent books for a certain period of time, either a semester, a quarter, or a 60-day period (which typically covers you for something such as a summer class) for as low as about eleven dollars per semester. On its homepage, Chegg.com claims to have saved students over $44 million.
  • Once you’ve gone through checkout, you can choose an area where you would like Chegg to plant a tree. Chegg has partnered with American Forests to support their Global ReLeaf Program, which seeks to improve the local and global environment by planting and caring for trees.
  • Subsequently, you receive your book, use it, and then enjoy free shipping back to Chegg.com when you are done with it.

What about Chegg.com is green?

  • The website asserts that despite the fact that 20 million trees are destroyed every year for textbook production alone, they try to offset this by renting textbooks to students. In doing so, we’re keeping a single copy in circulation for several terms instead of what could potentially be multiple copies purchased every year to satisfy the same need.
  • Chegg.com further attempts to offset the destruction of so many trees by planting one for every book the site rents, sells, or buys.

What about it isn’t green?

  • Chegg is an internet-based company; however, the Internet cannot be completely green because it requires a data center somewhere in the U.S. or abroad in order to function. Powering a data center involves the use of electricity, and heating and cooling systems, which might not necessarily come from green sources.
  • Furthermore, as previously noted, the textbook industry alone cuts down 20 million trees per year for their production.
  • Last but not least, we must take into account the harm in this model related to the CO2 emission and gasoline consumption associated with shipping textbooks all over the United States. Unless Chegg makes a concerted effort to work with a shipping company that employs vehicles such as hybrid trucks or those with ethanol-based engines, this process detracts something from its movement to go green.

What businesses can take away from Chegg’s innovative practices

  • Pairing with a well- established environmental agency (such as Chegg has done with the Global ReLeaf program) may help your business to go green more efficiently; these agencies know the ropes and can help with any questions you might have about the process. Furthermore, partnering with a reputable government agency can help your business earn credibility and positive public relations.
  • Any little push towards healing the environment helps; whatever you can do will assist the environment in some way, whether it’s planting a tree, insulating your company’s building better, or switching to Energy-Star appliances and unplugging them when they’re not in use.
  • Going green can boost business. Since its launch in 2003, Chegg.com has grown over 25 times its original size. [Co-founder] Osman Rashid was inspired to launch Chegg.com because he wanted college students to have convenient access to textbooks at a reasonable cost. The site’s effort to go green seems to have become an attractive prospect for customers. Despite the fact that Chegg saves its customers money and makes an attempt to help the environment, the company has developed a business plan that works (and so can you).

As mentioned in our piece about sustainability driving innovation, the strategy consultants referred to in the Harvard Business Review piece recommend imagining the future as a way to rethink your business models, practices, processes and technologies. Create and agree upon a picture of what you want your organization to become and design the future into the present. What actions can you take today to arrive at that future picture? What are the targets you want to accomplish on your journey?

Chegg.com seems to be on that journey to innovation in terms of the way they have reduced many of their environmental outputs, reduced costs to their customers and contributed to preserving our forests. They seem to have created a fresh business model that appears to have potential to help them create competitive advantage and a future of possibility.

By Fallon M. McCormick. Fallon can be reached at fmm245@nyu.edu.

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