Sustainability and ethics of the product lifecycle: is this the next frontier for the cycling industry?

HERO IMAGE: Working conditions of those who manufacture various components, parts and apparel for the cycling industry are an important element of a brand’s overall contribution to sustainability and ethical integrity. CREDIT: Fran Hogan, Unsplash

It’s reasonably well understood and acknowledged that cycling is a sustainable mode of transport and provides positive environmental outcomes through its contribution to urban mobility and transport solutions. It is also reasonably well accepted that the bicycle brings about community cohesion and social sustainability in areas where bikes are ridden frequently and commonly.

But what about the sustainability and ethics of the industry itself – manufacture, materials used, product lifespan, reuse, repair, recyclability, packaging, transport miles, and working conditions for those involved in the making of bikes, parts, accessories, garments and apparel.

The sustainability and ethics of the supply-chain, logistics and full lifecycle of the bicycle industry appears to be the next frontier, and one which many brands and organisations are already starting to address. And of which some have been in the practice of for many years and even decades.

Rightly so – because the audience is also starting to demand it. Consumers of all sports, activities and interests are showing greater consciousness towards product lifecycle, choosing to support companies who act ethically with a strong social and environmental compass. In the broader outdoor adventure industry, Patagonia is almost unquestionably leading the way, even encouraging consumers not to purchase their (or anyone else’s) products.

An increasing number of consumers are looking for products that have been manufactured, produced and shipped sustainably and with an environmental consciousness.
CREDIT: Unsplash

The cycling community – including outdoor adventurists, commuters, competitive cyclists and recreational families – arguably has an environmentally minded and socially conscious bent. As a gross generalisation, cyclists of all variety likely care about the world around them more than the average Joe. For many, they are already making an environmentally conscious decision to ride a bike. Logic follows that they will also turn attention toward other aspects of the activity and industry to ensure other elements support their environmental efforts.

Here are a few bicycle brands which are making a concerted effort towards sustainability in cycling kit, apparel and accessories:

The choice of materials and fabrics, including the use of recycled, natural or chemical products is becoming an increasingly important component of consumer choice.
CREDIT: Oscar Aguilar-Elias, Unsplash

When selecting brands and products to stock in your store, and if wanting to appeal to the environmentally-conscious customer, it would be worth your while to consider some of these brands. And to research others, including to see if those you currently stock and promote have an environmental consciousness. Increasingly, customers will preference and spend their money with those who are at the leading edge of this frontier.

While we’re on it – yes, money. Often it can cost more to produce parts, accessories and apparel that is ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable. Unfortunately, there is often no choice but to pass these costs on to consumers. And, of course, this forms part of their purchase consideration. Some will be prepared to pay more for a product they know has been produced responsibly. In time, with greater demand and more competition among brands and suppliers, costs will hopefully reduce.

But don’t just stock these brands for their social and environmental contributions. Make sure you promote that you’re doing this, and that you’re making a conscious decision to also be a leader in sustainability:

  • Consider establishing a ‘sustainable by design’ section in your store;
  • Include mention of the sustainable brands you stock in communications with your customers – in person and in e:news and on social media; and/or
  • Include a colour-coded sticker on the labels of those brands and products in your store which are built on sustainability.

Bike Citizens has a great article with more detailed information on this subject.

The quality and durability of a design can ensure positive environmental outcomes through reduced waste.

Choose to stock brands and products who offer repair options.