Sustainability is a word often used loosely when describing processes or products. Everything we create or consume has an impact on the planet, no matter how good the materials or manufacturing process. Our job is to better understand those impacts and make the best possible decisions to help mitigate them. In order to do that, we have to examine the entire product life cycle, from extraction of raw materials to manufacturing to product use and to what happens at the end of product life? The impact at each step of the product lifecycle is important and we constantly strive to identify where the greatest impacts exist and how to reduce our footprint.
LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS
The environmental impact of a product is more complex than just the materials used to assemble it. It includes all of the impacts associated with creating those materials, getting them to a factory, assembling the product, shipping it, how it is used by the consumer, and where it ends up at the end of its life. Life Cycle Analysis is the study of all of those impacts. It's a complex, time-consuming exercise that requires deep expertise and the cooperation of everyone in the supply chain. And while it's a labor-intensive process, it’s also the most precise way to determine the true impacts of creating a product. All of this also helps us understand where we can improve the process. To help us better understand the impacts of producing bicycles, we partnered with Duke University to examine the life cycle of carbon fiber and aluminum bicycle frames—the backbone of the cycling industry. The results of this work have uncovered several areas of potential improvement that help to guide our sustainability strategy.
Materials, Manufacturing, and Product
Examining products through the lens of life cycle analysis is the most useful means of evaluating environmental impacts. It’s a process, however, that's exceptionally complex and requires expertise beyond the scope of many manufacturers. Fortunately, the task has been made easier through a collaboration between the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Nike, and a consortium of leading global brands, suppliers, universities, NGOs, and government agencies who have created the Higg Index—a powerful tool for evaluating a brand’s sustainability work in policy, product, manufacturing, and social responsibility. The Duke study utilized the Higg index to estimate the environmental impacts of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy bike production, and this collaborative resource is an important tool in our future efforts to reduce the environmental and energy footprints of our supply chain.
It’s easy to think our single biggest material consumption is the carbon fiber or aluminum used to make our bikes and products. Surprisingly, our largest material footprint is in the materials used to package and ship those products. Our packaging team is tasked with ensuring that a product reaches the consumer in perfect condition, while also using the minimum amount of material with maximum recyclability. We recently redesigned the helmet boxes and achieved a reduction of 15% of the cardboard consumption, and eliminated the non-recyclable foam blocks. E-bikes, meanwhile, are a growing business and our packaging team is involved in an effort to improve durability while also adding 15 additional bikes to each container.
In addition to being rigorous about the performance of the materials used in our products, we are just as committed about the materials we do not want to see in our products. Our Restricted Substance List (RSL) and Packaging Restricted Substance List (PRSL) are based on the most stringent global legislation. Additionally, we've voluntarily included substances that may not yet be legislated but have been identified as hazardous. Through our participation in the WFSGI Corporate Responsibility committee, we are collaborating with our peers to drive creation of a standardized RSL for the bike industry.
The bluesign® system is a holistic approach to eliminating harmful substances at the front-end of the textile manufacturing process, ensuring that all inputs for textile creation are as sustainable as possible while also meeting environmental and safety requirements worldwide. A bluesign-certified factory represents the highest standard in textile production, which is why Specialized aligns itself with bluesign-certified factories whenever possible.
End of Life
Designing and manufacturing your new bike consumed natural resources and produced waste. In order to make the most of that, we invest in making sure the bike has a long happy life. Starting with our extensive field-testing program, where we work with professional teams, sponsored athletes, and our own employees to push our designs to the breaking point. We've also invested extensively in providing service parts to enable our dealers to keep your bike running as long as possible. When your Specialized bike eventually is ready to be retired, we offer to take it back and recycle the frame and any other recyclable components. See your Specialized dealer for details.
The Ongoing Journey of Sustainability
Our decisions have environmental impacts, and we're actively minimizing them.
Social and Environmental Responsibility
We operate responsibly & sustainably, from our supply chain to our communities.
Carbon Fiber Recycling Program
Thousands of carbon bikes end up in landfills each year—we're changing that.