PeopleForBikes Creates Sustainability Working Group for a Better, Cleaner Bike Industry

September 1, 2020

The bike is often seen as a sustainability tool to help lower emissions rates in people’s personal lives. For example, choosing to ride a bike saves 250g/km of CO2 compared to driving a car. While the benefits of going by bike are clear, the bike industry overall still struggles to unpack what sustainability means in terms of the bike business. 

Over the past year, the PeopleForBikes Coalition has grown and we have continued our work with numerous subcommittees and boards staffed by bike industry professionals. During this time, conversations and directives based on improving sustainability within the industry have become a large area of focus. These conversations, along with the realization that we can improve existing business practices, led PeopleForBikes to create a Sustainability Working Group (SWG). This group, led by 20 Coalition members, is volunteer-based and focused on providing insight and progress towards a more sustainable bike industry. 

As part of the Sustainability Working Group’s first efforts, we worked with an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow to understand more about sustainability in general and to better inform our path forward. “Historically, other environmental problems [in the bike industry] have not been addressed because bike use itself is considered to be sustainable,” said EDF Climate Corps Fellow Isabelle Branco-Lo. “Manufacturing and distributing a bike can still have severe environmental impacts. Raw materials extraction, toxic manufacturing processes, excess packaging, transportation emissions and product waste are all areas where the bike industry still has sufficient room to improve.” 

Through Branco-Lo’s findings and consultation, the Sustainability Working Group is discussing and disseminating tactics that can help improve sustainability and resiliency efforts as an industry. 

To start, the information we learned from Branco-Lo calls for more involvement and coordination in the compilation of an index of dangerous chemicals used in the manufacturing processes and end user operation of bicycles. To accomplish this, we established a Restricted Substances List (RSL) Task Force made up of engineering and product experts at 15 PeopleForBikes Coalition member organizations. Currently, the group is concentrating on compiling an RSL to affect the supply chain and global management of restricted substances related to hard goods in the bike industry. 

As a benefit of collaboration between outdoor industry partners, we are also excited to announce that current PeopleForBikes Coalition members will have access to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Climate Action Corps (CAC) at the same price as an OIA member. Companies that join commit to measure, plan and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and share their progress annually. The CAC demystifies and simplifies sustainability guidance with low- or no-cost strategies as many companies are already consistently strapped with day-to-day operations. Joining together on sustainability and climate change efforts show a commitment to corporate social responsibility and being a steward of the world that our products are enjoyed in. 

Group members have shared why they joined the SWG and what their companies are doing in regards to sustainability in preliminary meetings. Chris Sautter, product development center director at Yakima, provided insight from Yakima’s perspective as to why joining this group was is important:

At Yakima, we see sustainability as a journey not a destination, and every journey is better with friends and colleagues. Being part of both the OIA and PFB Sustainability Working Groups has been incredibly helpful for us as we assess our status, set our goals, and make progress. 2020 is the year that we planned to start measuring Yakima’s GHG emissions and the Climate Action Corps was founded at the perfect time to help facilitate this effort. Measuring, goal setting and GHG reduction are all challenging, but it has been more manageable with the support of the CAC and a cohort of peers in the bike and outdoor industries. The framework, tools and industry knowledge provided through the CAC has already proven essential to our progress in addressing GHG emissions.

All of this work has uncovered exciting opportunities and shown how daunting the task of improving sustainability will be. The bike industry has a long way to go, but with collaboration and continued efforts to learn and implement sound sustainability and climate change initiatives, we can make bicycling more sustainable and climate friendly than it is already.

If you are a PeopleForBikes member and are interested in joining the Sustainability Working Group, or the Restricted Substances List Task Force, please let us know by contacting [email protected].

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