Daniel Blackham speaks to Apidura co-founder Tori Fahey on how the product lifecycle and sustainability has changed over the years.
This piece first appeared in the October edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Many brands start from a desire to build a business, and then look for ideas that will help them execute that plan.
It’s a well-trodden path often guided by certain traditions that have developed over time. One of those is the belief that sustainability is an add-on, or a cost centre, taking away from the overall value of a business.
British bike bag brand Apidura took a different approach, starting with a desire to improve the ride experience, and then considered how to build a business to bring that to life.
“Through this lens, every decision we took started with how we thought the world should be — as a rider, as a member of the cycling community, as a consumer,” explained Tori Fahey, co-founder of Apidura.
“This influenced our approach to product development where we take an evergreen approach, rather than the traditional seasonal model, avoiding manufactured obsolescence.
“Our approach to product lifespan is also a key consideration which is captured in our ‘Built to Last’ philosophy.”
As part of this Apidura instils a celebration of repair culture, rather than a promotion of regular replacements.
These approaches to product design, lifecycle and repair are among the foundations of how sustainability is woven into the business.
Another differentiating factor is that Apidura is family owned and does not have any external investors.
“This allows us to take a long term and holistic view on the role that our brand should play in society,” said Fahey.
“It means that we can avoid the distraction of arbitrary short term KPIs, which are common in businesses with financial investors, and tend to distort behaviour and lead to decision making that favours short-term gains over long-term resilience and sustainability.
“An example of this is pushing impulse consumption through discounting to meet an annual financial target, a practice which is rife in the cycling industry and beyond.”
A decade in the making
With Apidura founded in 2013, how has implementing sustainable practices changed in the last 10 years?
“A decade ago there was widespread recognition regarding the need for better environmental and social practice, but there was disappointingly little by way of environmentally progressive alternatives in many areas of our supply chain,” said Fahey.
“As an example, when we tried to make our hangtags from recycled paper, we had printers trying to sell us bleached paper with a recycled effect printed on top.
“It’s unimaginable by today’s standards, but at the time there was a huge disconnect between the expressed wants of customers and actual behaviour.”
Public policy, combined with shifting consumer sentiment, has played a key role in changing this over the last decade.
“There are so many better options available now, which is really exciting,” said Fahey.
“At the same time, the emergence and proliferation of ‘sustainable’ options also includes mirages (things that seem more sustainable but aren’t, like compostable plastics).
“In this way, our work has shifted from pushing for more sustainable materials, to navigating new developments or creating our own.”
Throughout the brand’s product development there have been a number of milestones as it continues to reduce its ecological impact.
“In 2015, Apidura pioneered the transition to the use of TPU coating as an alternative source of water repellence in the bikepacking industry,” said Fahey.
“The standard was to use DWR coated sailcloth as a base fabric, Apidura actively worked to find alternatives to the use of PFAs that would enable users to experience durable waterproof performance without the environmental and health consequences associated with PFAs.”
Launching the Revive program in 2020 was another big milestone for Apidura.
In addition to reducing environmental impact by repurposing idle equipment, Revive provides an avenue to encourage customers to engage with sustainable practices, while making products more accessible for a wider range of consumers.
“It is also an effective way for us to reduce the demand for new low-cost products with shorter life cycles, instead providing an alternative for customers with a limited budget looking for performance equipment that will stand the test of time,” said Fahey.
Last year Apidura also achieved certification as a B Corp.
“This serves as external recognition of our commitment to high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability – and our commitment to continuous improvement in these areas,” said Fahey.
Although there have been many highlights, the journey comes with its own unique challenges which Apidura is continuing to tackle.
“Most of the challenges we face arise from the alternative business practices that we’ve pursued,” explained Fahey.
“The commercial cycling ecosystem (cycling media, physical bike shops, trade shows), has evolved in a way that rewards seasonality and hyper consumption.
“Having a business model that directly challenges both norms has required us to find other ways to communicate and participate within the industry.”
Earlier this year, Apidura released its first impact report, detailing the efforts of the company to improve its sustainability.
The intention of the report is to provide a comprehensive, transparent account of how the brand operates and the impact it has today.
“The report is essentially the story and quantification of the work that we’ve done since we started Apidura, so in some ways it was 10 years in the making,” said Fahey.
“However, bringing it together for the first time in this format, and taking a quantified account of our major activities was still a significant undertaking.”
Apidura had seen examples from other brands, but wanted to go further.
“We wanted to go beyond a simple checklist – and take the opportunity to bring greater transparency and understanding to our community regarding how we think about and carry out our work,” said Fahey.
“The process of preparing the report was ultimately much more valuable than we estimated at the outset.
“It was a catalyst for internal discussions on a range of topics and uncovered several areas where we can see room for further progress.”
Looking ahead, Apidura will continue to publish an impact report and the 2024 edition is in the works.
As for Apidura as a whole?
“We hope that Apidura can continue to challenge norms, raise the bar for environmental and social performance at the same time as making the best gear we possibly can,” said Fahey