How Shift Cycling Culture aims to make the bike industry more sustainable

The cycling industry is generally considered to be environmentally friendly, as bikes are better than cars. While the latter is true, that’s not all either.

Every organization, be it a bicycle manufacturer or a clothing brand, has an environmental footprint, which contributes to the climate crisis.

Organizations are not required to publish information about their emissions (unless they are publicly traded companies), but things are changing.

In September 2021, Trek published a sustainability report, in which it published data on its carbon emissions, as well as its environmental targets, while the UCI announced its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, which signaled a major step forward in voluntary transparency and a focus on sustainability.

But it will take more than one brand or organization to step in, to create change.

Image credit: Juan Trujillo Andrades

That’s where a non-profit organization, Shift Cycling Culture, comes in. It aims to bring the cycling industry together to create a more sustainable sport, by raising awareness, supporting conversations and creating change.

“We created Shift Cycling Culture to bring the industry together to discuss these issues and think about better ways to do this,” says Erik Bronsvoort, director of the organization.

“Sustainability has never been a real issue in the cycling industry, as the bicycle has always been seen as the green alternative to the car.

“Ideally the industry becomes circular, so there is no waste, no pollution and no use of scarce resources.

“The goal is for Shift Cycling Culture to no longer need to exist in as little time as possible.”

How Shift Cycling Culture wants companies to change

A key facet of the organization’s activities is that Shift Cycling Culture asks companies to sign up to its climate pledge.

Initially, this meant that companies committed to measuring their 2022 scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions and publishing them in 2023, and then annually.

It also commits companies to reducing their emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

  • Scope 1 emissions refer to direct GHG emissions from sources controlled or owned by an organization, such as emissions from company vehicles
  • Scope 2 emissions refer to indirect GHG emissions associated with purchased electricity, steam, heat or cooling, and result from an organization’s energy consumption
  • There are also scope 3 emissions, which include all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Image credit: GHG protocol

The culture of Shift Cycling is gaining momentum.

“60 companies have signed up so far and more companies are signing up every week, it feels a bit like a New Year’s resolution to some,” says Bronsvoort.

Signatories to the climate pledge include founders and CEOs of Assos, BMC, Brompton, Rapha, Schwalbe, Specialized and Vittoria.

Deepen the bicycle industry supply chain

Image credit: Fred MacGregor

In order to create a circular industry, Shift Cycling Culture takes an in-depth look at the supply chain.

“A Portuguese frame manufacturer has signed up which, although the average consumer may not know their name, is significant as they are a major supplier to the European bicycle industry,” says Bronsvoort.

“We’re attracting more Taiwanese companies to join, which is definitely the direction we want to go, so we’re pretty happy with how things are going so far.”

Supply chain collaboration also plays an important role, a sentiment shared by some of its signatories, including Specialized.

“The value of Shift’s initiative is that it is shared by many of our peers in the bicycle industry with whom we share much of our supply chain, and since approximately 70-90% of our global emissions are in our supply chain, it is imperative that we align our efforts,” says Troy Jones, Social and Environmental Responsibility Manager at Specialized.

“To be clear, we haven’t completed a thorough GHG assessment yet, but we have started, and the more of us get started, the easier it will be for all of us.”

“Scholars were early and ardent supporters of Shift, for the main reason that we support their goals, including their recent climate pledge, because they make it easier to achieve our goals.”

Fast fashion and the bike industry

Image credit: Fred MacGregor

The cycling clothing industry also plays a key role in the conversation around a more sustainable industry.

“Fashion is an important element, especially what happens after the point of sale of a product,” explains Bronsvoort.

“Expensive rain jackets are a key example: you don’t wear them very often [Bronsvoort clearly doesn’t live in the UK –Ed.]so why not set up a sharing system, where when I need a jacket for a week, I rent it and then return it, so it’s available for the next rider when they need it.

“That way you’re giving the same experience to every rider, at a lower cost and with a lot less hardware.”

Shift Cycling Culture facilitates collaboration between brands, hosting regular online industry meetups, to help create and work towards more eco-friendly solutions in the fashion industry.

After meeting online, Shift Cycling Culture discovered that many brands were facing issues with non-recyclable zippers, and most were using a single source, YKK.

The movement organized a meeting with YKK and about twenty brands in the clothing industry.

“We let them discuss the issues brands were facing with zippers and looked at what would work and what wouldn’t,” says Bronsvoort.

“These kinds of conversations are great because it means brands and suppliers can better understand each other and create more environmentally friendly solutions.”

But as Bronsvoort points out, this is only a minor part of the industry: “It’s just a small splinter group, the others are still in the pack.”

For Rapha’s head of social and environmental impact, Duncan Money, Shift Cycling Culture is paving the way for a collaborative environment in the industry for the better.

“Shift Cycling Culture has become a place where companies can share challenges and ideas, align around common goals, and maintain a high pace to achieve them,” Money says.

“The effects of climate change are already apparent and they have the potential to change everything about how we drive and how we do business.

“The cycling industry has the potential to be an incredible force for good in the world, but to bring about the changes needed, we need to act urgently, together.”

It’s not just for business

Image credit: Mike Massaro

Shift Cycling Culture is not only focused on creating change among cycling brands and manufacturers, it also wants to involve cyclists.

“We want to invite runners to speak up, lobby their favorite brands and help organize local events,” says Bronsvoort.

“We’ve had cleanup rides and gear swap nights which has been great because everyone brings work parts from their bike shed and you just swap stuff and drink beer together.

“It’s remarkably simple and there’s so much cycling stuff that people don’t want anymore, but another person would be happy to have.”

Clearly, there is a growing appetite for a sustainable cycling industry, but it won’t happen without collaboration or overnight.

About Robert James

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