Stuttgart – cycling has a green image. But for many companies of the cycle industry that is not enough. In future, the signs will increasingly point to green in the production and the supply chains, as well. For this reason the BIKEBRAINPOOL think-tank launched the Bike Charter in autumn 2021, which has been signed by more and more companies since then. With their signature, they commit themselves to more sustainability in all divisions of the company.
Since paper is patient, we want to find out in a mini-series from some of the signatories how they intend to achieve the ambitious environmental protection goals in concrete terms.
In section four Dirk Zedler, company founder and owner of the Zedler-Group, will answer our questions. Since 1993, the company in Ludwigsburg has been testing bicycles and components thoroughly, producing operating instruction in up to 40 languages and bicycle reports for various target groups. In addition, Dirk Zedler also works as an expert witness for courts in Germany, Europe and even the USA. The sustainable idea was part of the company philosophy from the very beginning for the man of nature from the Swabian Alps. The 59-year-old is burning for the idea that more and more entrepreneurs join his mission.
DGNB platinum award for a sustainable building, i.e. the new company building in Ludwigsburg, honoured “Most Bicycle-Friendly Employer” in Baden-Wuerttemberg, selected “Hero of the new mobility" by Minister of Transport Winfried Hermann, current winner of the Business Award for the Environment for companies, the list of awards for companies or yourself could go on and on
To make it clear right away, we are not competition monges (he laughs). We are often asked from outside to take part in competitions, explain in the application what we do and poof, we win the thing. It is much more important to act with sustainability in mind than to win awards. It's an attitude to life that comes from inside. Since 1984, during my engineering studies in Karlsruhe, I have been cycling every metre in the city to this day. My sustainable company concept has emerged from everyday doing and process optimisation. It doesn't take a big hit to achieve this. Many people approach the matter in an overly intellectual way. It is enough to do simple things, such as recycling packaging materials, separating waste, etc. And a “caretaker” among the staff who makes sure that the concept of sustainability is implemented.
Why then the Bike Charter, which your company helped to launch and with which the signatory companies from the bicycle industry commit to more sustainability?
Basically, cycling is sustainable in itself. But in the end, at the Zedler-Group it is one of the tasks to check why bicycles have broken down. This is where we can start. Namely, by answering the question of what we can do to make bicycles more durable in the future. A long usability, that is the best in terms of sustainability and for the customer. Alternatively, we need to make products that can be repaired. And bring our standards down to a common denominator as well as improve the working conditions of our suppliers in Asia. The objective of the Bike Charter is, broadly speaking, to still the fears of companies that sustainable management is a monumental task. The district championship comes prior to the Olympic victory.
However, a long usability of bicycles also means that fewer bicycles are sold, and this reduces the profit
You have to see this in a differentiated way. Let's take Barcelona as an example. The culture of bike rental is lived there. Nevertheless, many people have a high-end bike at home for the weekend. The turnover of the bicycle industry will not collapse when we make bicycles more durable. Technical progress always triggers the impulse in many people to want something new. Or to put it the other way round, when the chain of my bike breaks every 1000 kilometres and I then have to wait forever for a replacement part, I’m frustrated. That's how we will lose buyers. Durability not only means quality but also functionality. We have to get out of the sports and leisure corner and into the topic of everyday mobility.
What exactly are the cornerstones of Zedler Group in terms of sustainability?
Firstly, our low energy consumption. One of our employees wrote his bachelor thesis on energy consumption in our rented buildings. His results also presented the basis for our new company building in Ludwigsburg. This has actually a roof fully equipped with photovoltaics. Thanks to our east/west orientation, we use the first and last rays of sunlight of the day for our own consumption, the building being certified climate-positive.
Our second important sustainability pillar is transport. With our suppliers, we pay attention to whether they have already received environmental awards themselves and, of course, to short travel distances. We on our part use cargo bikes for our transports.
The third pillar is certainly doing. We constantly ask ourselves what we can realise immediately on our way to more sustainability. Be it the bicycle stand in front of the entrance door, the towels for the employees to shower, disposable pallets that become reusable pallets thanks to intelligent use, or consistent waste separation.
What do you reply to those who criticize that running a climate-neutral or even climate-positive business without production is easy?
I tell them, for example, that they should focus on the roofs of their factory buildings to see how much photovoltaics can be installed on them. In addition, I would show them the economic efficiency of these plants. Ours will have paid itself off after seven years. And that with 20 years of full performance. If these plants produce too much electricity, this can be used wonderfully to charge customer vehicles, company vehicles or electric bikes.
Give us a brief outlook on what the Zedler-Group will be doing in the future in terms of sustainability?
I have to admit, I'm not happy with the fact that only 75 per cent of our employees take their bicycles to come to work. There is still room for improvement. Our evaluations we have made internally for ourselves so far is another issue. Now we want to publish our results. To provide evidence, in a way. We want to communicate that we as the Zedler-Group have been fossil-free since the middle of 2017 and that it’s going well, also from an economic point of view.
To me, it’s a matter of the heart to encourage and motivate other companies to try it out for themselves. Our company management can be copied in terms of sustainability.
Author: Daniela Eichert