WHAT SUSTAINABILITY MEANS FOR US
This blog post expands on the content of an article published by The Local Europe for EDHEC Business School earlier this week.
Sustainability has rapidly become a fundamental pillar in business -and we firmly believe that, as such, if you´re not paying attention to the impact you´re having, and then doing something about it, you´re not going to last long.
Cycling is by design one of the "greenest" industries there is, particularly due to the network effects that the act of riding a bike has on many facets of our life and the life of others (think commuting by bike, what that does to you (a healthier life), and the ones that still need to use the car to commute (less traffic congestion), however, the impact of all the activities involved in producing cycling products is not necessarily green and only recently has started to be taken into consideration. Think about the rise of electric bikes and the two to three year lifespan of their batteries -how would the batteries of the electric bikes that were sold in 2020 and 2021 (perhaps the biggest year for the cycling industry ever recorded) be disposed / recycled / managed? What happens to the 30 million electric bikes that are projected to be sold in Europe by 2030?
As a carbon wheel brand we are responsible for the impact that bringing wheels to our customers have, and it´s on us to measure it, report on it, and reduce it.
There are four key messages we would love our customers to understand (and internalise) and that we articulate throughout our brand identity, the content we regularly share and the stories we tell;
1. Let´s not create what we don´t need. Carbon wheels are not for everyone or for everything. They provide a set of benefits that you may or may not be looking for. We don´t want you to spend your savings on a set of carbon wheels that end up sitting in your garage.
2. When you do buy a set of wheels from us, ensure you take good care of them. Carbon fibre can truly live a long life, if you know the fundamentals of good carbon wheel maintenance. This is one of the reasons why we love carbon fiber as a material for rims. Carbon fibre wheels are just about impossible to deform in their vertical axis and with the right care you´ll have a high performance set of wheels for generations. One wheelset that lasts heaps means no additional wheelsets where needed to be manufactured to replace damaged ones (think of an alloy wheel that gets deformed). Better quality slows down the frequency of producing wheels.
This is our Guide (how to take good care of your wheels), available in our website and printed with every wheelset delivered.
3- If you don´t need your wheelset anymore (you´ve changed bikes, switched sports or need a different set of specifications or components for your wheels), put it back in the system. Sell it or give it to a mate you know needs it. Get in touch with us to swap it for a different set, have us sell it for you via our outlet or add it to our rental fleet. It´s about circularity, the longer they stay in the circle, the less we need to produce.
We are about to launch NS CUSTOM - giving the cyclist the ability to modify, upgrade or create their dream wheelset from scratch, keep your eyes peeled.
4- If it has become unrideable, let´s find an alternative use for it. Our warranty and let me ride incident protection program has got your back, but what do we do with a damaged wheel that can´t be ridden? Although this is an unlikely event (about 1% according to our data) it does happen and the last thing we want is for one of our sets to end up on a landfill (which never happens as it is a requirement for the customer to return their damaged set of wheels to us if they want to make use of the our warranty or let me ride programme). With recycling of carbon fiber not really a viable option today, finding alternative uses is the only way to keep them in the "circle" (using carbon fibre to manufacture other products, or modifying the rims to serve another purpose, for instance)
If you have ideas about finding alternative uses to damaged carbon fibre rims please do get in touch.
NSC IMPACT: 4 CHALLENGES
From a sustainability standpoint, the below four questions represent the work NSC needs to do to become more sustainable and circular, and forms the baseline of the measuring, reporting and improving work we´ll be doing.
1- How can we reduce our carbon footprint? - We ship our wheels by Air and Sea from our factory in China to our markets (NZ being our biggest and core market), and by Air and Land from our warehouse to our customers. Reverse logistics apply in our rental programme and when the warranty is triggered (wheels get shipped back to us). In addition, the NSC team travels by both Air and Land to be present at events and to meet our partners.
2- Can we use re-usable packaging? - We use cardboard boxes to ship our wheels which contain protective plastic materials inside. Wheels are then re-packaged in our NZ warehouse and put into new and NSC branded boxes. This is far from green. We could ship our wheels on just our wheelbags (made in NZ) but we would need to increase retail price by NZD150 by default, or start by branding and better protecting our wheelsets at the source so that we don´t need to re-pack (this requires bigger volumes as MOQs for branded cartons are 500-1000 units)
3- How can we be more circular, at scale? - Example: our rental and buy back programmes. Could we have a partner network (bike shops) helping us scale our rental programme across the country?
4- What should we do with a damaged carbon fibre rim? – recycle it, repair it, transform it into something else.
AND WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY?
To us, being socially responsible means we do our part to make sure our society, and the communities around which we operate, are better off with us than without us.
These are a few of the areas we strive to have a positive impact in:
- NZ Athletes - NSC supports high potential athletes by lowering their expenditure in equipment, raising their profiles, and providing equipment and advice that gives them an edge
- NZ Female athletes - The cycling sport is far from a 50/50 participation ratio. Within the professional field the difference is astonishing. While recent advances are promising there is a long way to go. NSC aims at always having more female than male sponsored athletes, and at minimum (temporary basis), a 50/50 split, hoping we accelerate an urgent adjustment to female participation in the sport at all levels.
- NZ Suppliers - To the extent we can we always prioritize NZ suppliers over overseas suppliers. Today this includes packaging, printing, parts, labour and local courier services among others.
- NZ Partners - Becoming a force to strengthen the NZ cycling ecosystem is core to who we are. We´ve launched unique collaborations with Tootkit, ilaab, Black Magic Women´s Cycling Team, Edition Zero, Team CP and NZ Cycling Journal to name a few.
Sustainability is a work in progress topic at NSC.
This article lays the foundation for the work that needs to happen.
Before the end of 2023 NSC will be issuing a report containing our emissions scope 1 and 2 baseline, and plans to reduce them.