Sustainability and the cycling industry: See.Sense

Cycling is often at the centre of sustainable travel initiatives, with the effects of rising carbon emissions and climate change becoming increasingly worrying every day. But how green is the trade itself? BikeBiz hears from more businesses about what they’re doing to be more environmentally-friendly

Today, we hear from Irene McAleese, co-founder, See.Sense

What is your take on the current state of sustainability in the cycling industry?
As an industry, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that our ultimate goal of getting people cycling is moving the world in a more sustainable direction – helping to decrease emissions, improve air quality and road safety. Cycling is the future, and plenty of countries are already striving to enable more cycling.

While the cycling industry remains greener and more sustainable than most industries out there today, it would be remiss to avoid asking ourselves: how can we do better? Is our industry doing enough to reduce emission-heavy global supply chains? Are we doing all we can to reduce waste and recycle materials, particularly during manufacturing processes?

In this sense, cycling cannot take a superior view towards other industries, but rather must confront its remaining problems and continue to act as an example for others to follow.

What strategies do you have in place regarding sustainability?
See.Sense was established as a personal passion by its founders to help get more people cycling, which we know ultimately helps to reduce CO2 emissions and pollution. With more than 100,000 See.Sense lights in use today, and millions of kilometres have been logged through our app, we know that our community of riders has already helped to save thousands of tonnes of CO2.

Sustainability has always been – and will continue to be – one of our core values and we are proud to have been carbon neutral since our inception. We have put in place a number of strategies to achieve this.

Firstly, we manufacture our products in the UK where possible, which cuts down significantly on emissions associated with overseas shipping. We also strive to make quality products that are built to last, and are backed not only by a comprehensive two year guarantee, but also by a full service maintenance offer for lights outside of warranty, to ensure that no light ends up unnecessarily as waste.

We are also proud to run a trade-in scheme, where old lights can be traded-in and donated to the Adsum Charity, which sends the traded-in lights to be reused by cyclists  in Madagascar. We have also recently launched our new ECO packaging. This new packaging is totally plastic-free, which makes it even easier to recycle, and it’s strong and resilient, which means it cuts down on the need for outer postal packaging. The redesigned smaller size of the ECO packaging also makes it small enough to fit through all letterboxes, which cuts down on multiple delivery attempts.

See.Sense has now collected billions of sensor readings from our devices, and when it comes to analysing our data, we think about how to do this sustainably too. This is why we plan ahead to use spare capacity on Amazon Web Services, allowing AWS to use fewer servers and less electricity. We use refurbished laptops and office chairs in our office and keep printing to an absolute minimum.

Lastly, we have worked with WeForest since 2014, helping to plant over 7,500 trees in India, Madagascar and Tanzania. We also encourage our team to use the Search Engine ‘Ecosia’ which plants trees.

What more can the industry be doing to be more environmentally friendly, and why is this important?
We are encouraged to see many companies in the industry taking positive steps. But our challenge to the industry – especially the larger companies out there who aim to be ‘carbon neutral by 2040’ – is that we need to move fast! Let’s move quickly to implement real change.

To do this, we’ll need to work collaboratively, sharing and learning best practice. We are proud to be a founding member of Cycling Industries Europe, which has recently set up an expert group to explore how the cycling industry can improve sustainability – do check it out.

How concerned do you think customers are about making environmental purchases?
Riding a bicycle emits around 21g of CO2 per km. An average car emits 271g. So as a cyclist, our customers are already making a great contribution. However, it’s clear that customers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their cycling purchases and as a result are becoming more and more concerned with the environmental records of the companies that they purchase from.

There’s an opportunity here for brands to be rewarded for the steps they take towards sustainability, as it is increasingly a factor in purchasing decisions. So apart from ethical considerations, it just makes great business sense to embrace sustainability.

Previous: Rob Akam, managing director, Reid Bikes – “Overall, we’d say that the cycling industry is slightly ahead of the curve in sustainability practices than some other industries”

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