PayByPhone’s unique business model is driving the UK to a greener future

Jonny Combe, UK CEO of cashless parking payment provider PayByPhone, talks about his Meters for Trees Initiative, Europe expansion and the simplification of travel.


PayByPhone is pioneering sustainability initiatives in the UK. With its cashless payments and seamless customer interface, the parking app’s unique business strategy positions it as a key player in the emergence of the UK as a smart city hub. Business Chief caught up with CEO of cashless parking payment provider PayByPhone UK, Jonny Combe, to discuss the recent launch of its new initiative, Meters for Trees.

A sustainable business model

The Scotland-born CEO is a self-confessed “car fanatic.” His passion led to a career in the automotive sector, working across a variety of departments such as marketing, sales, operations, strategy, and manufacturing at BMW Group. Combe made the transition from BMW to UK CEO of PayByPhone in 2018, tasked with driving expansion across the UK. His approach has been both conscientious and bold as he leads the company towards achieving this goal, all while maintaining the company’s green ethos.

In June 2019, Combe officially launched the Meters for Trees initiative, a unique programme designed to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint. "Meters for Trees works with local authorities and private operators as clients in order to reduce the amount of CO2 produced," he says, adding that "to do this they are assisting with the reduction of parking machines." Combe acknowledges the vast reduction of these machines over the last decade though and that individuals now pay for parking via apps such as PayByPhone. "These machines do more environmental damage than most would realise. They require regular maintenance, whether this is an employee driving to empty the machines, or even repairs due to theft or vandalism in the area. This is why we encourage local authorities to reduce them." The Meters for Trees initiative pledges that for every 10 machines reduced by local authorities, PayByPhone will offset one tonne of carbon through the port of the Portel-Pará REDD project, a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) audited initiative project in the Amazon Rainforest. “For every tonne that we offset, we also donate a tree to the local authority. For example, in the case of Kensington and Chelsea council, where we launched the programme, they had 700 machines that they wanted to remove. So that's 70 tonnes of carbon that we offset and as a kind of nod to that, we'll donate 70 trees to the borough.” Combe says that from this, it was calculated that over 23,000 miles were driven just to empty these machines alone. Not only is this reducing the borough’s carbon footprint, but it’s also creating cost savings in excess of £120,000 a year that would have otherwise been lost to theft. Earlier in the year the company also launched a visitor vouchers parking solution, with Ealing council, taking the scratch-card method digital in order to streamline the user's parking experience. In addition to local authorities, Combe notes that PayByPhone also works closely with a number of parking operators, including the largest and best known, NCP.

PayByPhone has already picked up two Green World Environment Awards; one for carbon reduction and the other for work with local authorities, and a Green Apple Environment Award. “We’ve also been short-listed for four or five more awards and I’m optimistic that we will pick a couple more up.” He adds: “We’re the largest in the industry for what we do and we truly believe in leading by example.” Before launching the initiative, PayByPhone ensured it had itself achieved carbon neutral status. “C-level executives need to lead by example,” explains Combe. “As you can tell, we are pretty passionate about the green agenda and how technology can forward that.”

A greener UK

As Combe looks to the future, he shares that there are several advancements in the works. “One of the main metrics of our business is the number of transactions that we process and this year we will have done close to 50% more than last year.” Combe hopes that this number will continue to increase. Earlier in the year, PayByPhone acquired Connect Cashless Parking, a company located in Liverpool. "We're certainly open-minded to any further acquisitions that will help us achieve our business strategy.” He says that PayByPhone is a global brand moving to strengthen its presence in Europe. “I want to take over Scotland with this initiative,” he jokes. “We have a small presence in the country currently and I’m really passionate about expanding there.” As the company evolves, Combe believes that PayByPhone will go beyond parking solutions. “Volkswagen Financial Services didn’t just acquire PayByPhone for parking, it's the fact that parking is a key component of how our consumers’ journey fits together. So, I think in the future we'll be able to bring lots of different types of journeys under one umbrella and pay for them in a really easy and simple way.”


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