The Future of Travel: In Conversation with Brompton Bike Hire
What are the current problems in the bicycle industry when it comes to sustainability?
The bicycle industry face many of the same challenges as any other manufacturing industry. We make a product which requires materials, resources, energy and supply chain partners. We ship products around the world and although a bike’s use phase can improve health and enable more sustainable transport opportunities, once no longer fit for purpose an end-of-life solution is required. We are therefore subject to many of the challenges that this linear economy of “take, make, dispose” creates.
At Brompton we have recently completed a Life Cycle Assessment of our bike to understand where our environmental hotspots are. This has been a great exercise that engaged many teams across the company from design to manufacturing from logistics to customer service. Having oversight of our impacts has enabled us to build a strategy, with an ambition to move towards being a more circular business.
Brompton highlight the importance of cutting down on ones personal carbon footprint, how important is this when we consider our individual impact on the planet?
We are in a climate emergency and change needs to happen on all levels. Governments and companies have significant roles to play in addressing this and as individuals we may feel our contribution is too small, but as a collective force we are powerful.
Understanding your own footprint is a powerful tool, it provokes questions… you learn more about your lifestyle choices, maybe even the origins or journeys of the products or food you buy. It may lead you to learn about alternative options or challenge the companies you engage with; it may even influence the people you vote for. This awareness creates powerful and informed communities which are already influencing companies and policies.
At Brompton we strongly believe that travelling by bike creates happier and healthier lives. Swapping a journey from cars or public transport, to bicycle or walking, is a great way to help reduce your personal footprint.
What’s been the most challenging target you’ve set for Brompton so far?
We will be releasing our 5 year strategy later this year, Brompton are on a journey and we are excited to have open and honest conversations with our communities about what we have already done and what are ambitions are. One of our aims is to be a more responsible and circular business. We are challenging material use, manufacturing processes, end of life solutions and exploring how we can get more people, globally, on bikes for longer.
Big brands hold a level of responsibility to operate in a way that prioritises both the people and planet. Could you share with us some ways that Brompton do this?
Sustainability is not new for Brompton, from its creation Brompton has always been purpose driven. We build bikes to last; we source quality materials and use skilled craftsmanship here in the UK. The design is minimal with each part and material having a practical purpose. We believe your Brompton bike should last and offer a 7 year warranty, keeping parts for even older bikes. We actively promote sustainable transport solutions and via our Bike Hire business and Wheels for Hero campaign we are increasing access to cycling beyond the conventional ownership model. Being a responsible business is a journey and there are always opportunities for improvement. We are building strong governance structures internally including Chief led Sustainability steering committees and we are proactively building environmental and social considerations into both our culture and processes.
Electric bikes are becoming more popular, could you share with us the benefits of eclectic?
Our Bike Hire business challenges traditional ownership models. In a world of finite resources, our hire model creates shared access to products and services, enabling people to cycle more with less impact. With this model, the responsibility for repair remains with Brompton and our continuous monitoring and professional maintenance keeps the bikes going for longer. At our London factory, where we maintain our bikes, we are also able to recycle a significant number of parts from tyres and innertubes to plastic parts and metal frames.
Brompton Hire also supports key groups and partners helping them on their own cycling journey from projects like Cycle42 in Merton to Wheels For Heroes which throughout the Covid pandemic has seen over 200,000 free hire days being redeemed.
What can we expect to see from Brompton in the future as you continue to work towards sustainability?
Expect open and honest conversations. We strongly believe that sustainability is beyond a set a targets and are working hard to strengthen our existing purpose and culture by educating, empowering and inspiring our teams. We will explore innovations in material and manufacturing processes, we will support our supply chain partners, we will be accountable for our impacts, we will explore more circular business models, such as our Bike Hire business which and, as always, we will advocate, support and enable more people to cycle (and not just on Bromptons!).