5 QUESTIONS FOR is an interview series with cycling brands that are trying to step up their game when it comes to reducing environmental impact.The series does not set out to present perfect examples, nor does the series intend to favour specific brands. What we do hope to offer is an informative and honest account of the possible challenges, gains and pitfalls of their journey. And to inspire more cycling companies to become part of this shared responsibility. #004: Oliver Pepper, co-founder, co-owner, director Morvélo
When did your company start addressing its environmental impact, and why?
"Only very recently. Early in 2019 we were becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the clothing industry but from a variety of different sources. On the one hand it was a broader awareness, with Extinction Rebellion protests driving public awareness of climate change and magazine features about the damage the clothing industry causes. On a cycle industry level it was the prevalence of discounting and the resulting increase of stock needed to reach the same turnover and finally it was on a personal level with my children learning about the climate emergency in school and asking me searching questions about how my company fitted into this.
It made us review the business and reset our priorities. If we were to look back in ten, twenty or thirty years, would we be happy with what our success or failure meant for the environment, knowing it would be our children’s generation and future generations that would be dealt the harshest blow? We love cycling and the outdoors so we feel it massively hypocritical if we don’t seek to change our business."
What particular impact within the lifespan of your products do you focus on, and why?
"We are looking at all facets as the production of anything and even consumer culture itself is damaging. Fabric is the core impact as sportswear uses petroleum based fibres that also contribute to microplastics. We are working with Universities and other parties to research other biological options and in the meantime working with fabric mills to use either recycled fabrics or find fabrics and construction methods that can be used as part of the circular economy.
These are mid to long terms objectives that cover Morvélo and The Overland but with The Overland we are looking to create versatile products that can perform multiple tasks across cycling and adventure sport yet also look and work well for everyday life. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation - A New Textiles Economy states “Increasing the average number of times clothes are worn is the most direct lever to capture value and design out waste and pollution in the textiles system.” The Overland aims to address this issue first whilst we research and develop ways of reducing the impact of production which can also then benefit Morvélo and the cycle sport range."
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
"The main challenge is knowledge and information. To take apart your business and rebuild with a new structure and focus takes time and requires new expertise that you don’t have. No one has the answers and currently there are limitations to what can be achieved. Recycled polyester for example is better than producing virgin polyester (although some argue to take more energy to produce) but it’s more expensive, may not perform as well and still contributes to micro plastic pollution. It is this type of barrier we come up against again and again. Only time, increased awareness, increased demand for a better way of doing things, that will make that change. There are no solutions but there are stepping stones and it’s still vital we take them."
What are your ambitions for both short and long term?
"In the next few years we aim to make all Morvélo and The Overland products from recycled fabrics but at the same time develop new production methods that enable our products to be themselves easily recycled. In the next ten years I would like to find a way where we produce no new clothing at all, but instead find ways of using the fabric and clothing that is already out there. The most sustainable product is the one you don’t make, so we will support this by repair programs and also helping drive and promote a desirability around well used, upcycled and repaired clothing."
What do you expect of your customers on this journey?
"In essence stopping climate change and consumer culture is at odds but people will always want to consume. We would like our consumers to be forward thinking in helping us approach this. It is going to cost everyone, individuals and companies, more money to help address the environmental issues. Processes and mindsets need to be changed and traditional linear models of make, sell, dispose need to be replaced with the circular economy. If consumers can get behind those companies that want to make this change, and support them to make this transition, then more companies will follow. We need to reach this tipping point where it makes no business sense for a company not to do it and we hope our customers will support us in doing this."
Follow the progress of Morvélo to become a sustainable brand here: https://www.morvelo.com/pages/sustainability Photo credits: Morvélo / The Overland