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.
#008: Brad Sheehan, CEO / Designer Velocio
When did your company start addressing its environmental impact, and why?
"A sustainable ethic has been with us since the beginning: we’ve focused on making better, more durable products and by all accounts we have, but there are elements of our impact that we haven’t addressed, that are impossible to address given the current sourcing and transportation options available. That said, we’re proud of the products we produce now and know that they are on the forefront of what’s available in terms of sustainability."
What particular impact within the lifespan of your products do you focus on, and why?
"Our primary impact focus is durability. We know that it takes roughly the same amount of energy to create a cheap/disposable garment and a quality/durable one. So while the quality may have a higher dollar cost, its impact over the life of the product is far lower. This quality and durability also adds a lot of value to the customer and, throughout the lifespan, provides a better experience - the driver behind every product we make.
In addition, we’ve continued to advance recycled and biodegradable fabrics and packaging within our collection as another aspect of how we can reduce impact. Every jersey in our collection is either made primarily from recycled polyester (ocean trash from EU - turned into new yarn in EU) or natural fibers.
Each of our suppliers meets BlueSign and/or Oeko-tex certifications as well, and the materials come from European mills close to our manufacturers which cut down on the shipping carbon footprint required to make these pieces. We’ve done this since the beginning and currently these materials are the majority of what we use throughout the line."
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
"There are three big ones:
1. Materials: suppliers have been increasing innovation over the last couple of years, but this requires a lot of effort and we’re working with them regularly on how we can reimagine what’s possible, from fabrics, trims & components to packaging.
2. Transportation is a huge challenge from an impact perspective. Freight from our manufacturing to our distribution, and shipping to our customers - this process can be incredibly complex developing efficiencies that can maintain high customer service and reduce impact is a big focus of ours.
3. Perception - this is twofold. The perception that high performance and sustainable are mutually exclusive is a misconception often pushed by luxury brands. It’s simply not true. The second is price/value; that all apparel is created in the same way using the same materials and the difference in price is the brand selling it. There’s a cost to how we produce our apparel: from the fabrics we select, to the manufacturing partners we work with, and the way that product arrives to the customer."
What are your ambitions for both short and long term?
"We aim to continue to be innovative in how we develop and produce our products. Our goal is to create a completely circular garment lifecycle, with a deeper commitment to repair, recovery and recycling programs for end-of-life garments. And we want to develop a carbon impact score for every product we make to inform our design process as well as our customers."
What do you expect of the cycling community on this journey?
"We need our customers to look closely at their apparel as investments and select items based on quality and durability. We need them to consider the underlying cost to environmental impact as well as labor force. We need them to learn more and demand more of brands when it comes to recycled and biodegradable materials, to push brands to do more around the end-of-life and to become part of this process in shifting apparel from disposable fast fashion to investment in quality & durability."