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Cycling brand Rapha makes climate commitments as new platform aims for industry shift

Thu 24 Feb 2022 | 02:44 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

Rapha recently made a series of commitments to climate action and circularity

The global cycling brand, Rapha, is one among the industry’s biggest names to have highlighted recent commitments to climate and circularity, starting out with the goal to reduce its collective emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. The move from Rapha comes amid a swathe of new goals and commitments from the global cycling industry and the formation of the Shift Cycling Culture platform, one established to fuel change across the sector. The movement has been born of a motivation to amplify cycling’s role as a force for good in the world, its power to improve people’s lives and play a key part in the battle against climate change. As a sport and hobby, cycling has always been closely aligned with environmentalism and the reduction of carbon by offering a clean and efficient mode of transport. However, it is recently that the industry itself has begun to make the right moves to address its own impact through current business models and supply chains. Fundamentally, the cycling industry has seen both production and consumption increase to new levels over the course of the last couple of years. Those who had taken up the hobby at the height of the pandemic in 2020 will remember only too well the demand that was placed in the industry looking to meet the swell of cyclists and outdoor-goers buying into the hobby. It’s an area that hasn’t gone untouched by the licensing space in recent years, and in February 2021 Milltag even partnered with Global Merchandising Services to launch a range of cycle gear inspired by the heavy rock legends, Motorhead. At the time of the launch, cycling was experiencing a boom of interest. But with the boom came a stark rise in consumption. It’s in conversation with the cycling industry title BikeBiz that Rapha’s sustainability manager, Duncan Money admits that currently, the cycling space has a bit of a problem.
The cycling and apparel brand Rapha is committing to Carbon Neutral by 2025 among many other measures.
“The cycling industry is having a real boom at the moment, which means that production and consumption are going up,” he says. “Even if companies are making progress, it’s probably been completely swamped by growth in the market. Absolute emissions will definitely have gone up across the entire industry, just because cycling as a whole is having a moment.” What steps, then, has Rapha taken to address the situation? Well, in April last year it published its impact commitments – a series of long-term, measurable, ambitious targets that take into consideration all areas of environmental and social impact. Among them was the declaration that Rapha was gunning Carbon Neutral status by 2025. By that same year, the firm will also have transitioned all its clubhouses and offices to 100 per cent renewable energy and would have worked to ensure that 90 per cent of its products will be made with environmentally preferred materials. Within the next two years, all product and dispatch packaging will be responsibly sourced, renewable, or made from recycled materials that are compostable or recyclable at the point of the customer, while by the end of this year, you can expect to see Rapha’s take-back programme running in conjunction with its already established, optimised and maximised, repair service. Look a little further into the future for the global cycling brand, and by 2027 Rapha will aim to have around 50 per cent of all of its products designed to be compostable or recyclable at ‘end of life.’ This is the aim, at the very least. “In the last few years, we’ve been working steadily to make changes across our business while maintaining our standards in design and quality,” reads an online statement from the firm. “Our longstanding repairs service has given a new lease of life to over 34,000 garments and, more recently, we’ve begun to incorporate recycled materials into certain products and will continue to do so across our range. “But to realise the full potential of pedal power, we must do more. Both internally ad externally, there is much more we can do to make our industry as sustainable as the sport it serves.” They are the sentiments shared by the newly created platform, Shift Cycling Culture, a network similar to Products of Change, established to facilitate conversations around the topic, while ‘bringing stakeholders together with doers, all with the aim of reducing the community’s impact “on the very nature we use as our playground.” Founded by a group of business leaders from across the cycling industry, including names from Brompton, Rapha, and Specialized, SCC is setting out to help implement decisive action in the fight against climate change. “We are proud that cycling plays an important part in decarbonising our world, by enabling people to ride their bikes, enjoy the outdoors, and make cities more liveable by taking cars off the streets,” said the group in an open letter to the cycling community. “At the same time, the way in which we in the cycling industry make and sell products is also contributing to the problem. We need to change this, but we can’t do it on our own, which is why we’re making an urgent appeal to you, our partners and competitors across the wider industry.” The open letter goes on to address some uncomfortable home truths for an industry so closely aligned with the push for better environmental measures. “The biggest part of the environmental impact of our products arises from production; 50 to 80 per cent of the carbon emissions take place when we extract, source, and produce materials and parts. “We recognise the enormity of the challenge of meeting the UN Paris Agreement’s targets, and we will only be able to do so if we innovate together to reduce emissions related to production, create products that will last longer, work with customers on maintenance and lifetime extension, an develop a closed loop system to recover materials. “We believe these initial steps are essential and urgent for us all, and that if every company within the cycling industry take them, then the cumulative impact would be enormous.”
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