Shimano Softgoods: environmental sustainability at the heart of development

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The environment and sustainability are extremely actual topics and have rightfully entered the agendas of all nations, because the challenge is global. While on the one hand it is the states that have to show the way, on the other private individuals and companies have a responsibility, not only a moral one, to implement actions and programs in order to reduce their impact and be able to reverse or at least slow down a race towards the era of global boiling, as defined by Guterres.

We talked about it with Marleen Keesen, marketing manager of Shimano Europe Softgoods.


The idea of delving into the discussion of the Japanese giant's environmental sustainability a little better came to me during a recent visit to the MOA Sports company (Nalini), inItaly, where many of the Shimano Softgoods garments are made for the Europe. I proposed to Marleen to tell me about the situation and the projects of one of the largest companies in cycling industries and below you can read the report of this chat.shimano softgoods croatia

Shimano is a leading company in cycling and can also be an example for other large companies. Is there a global plan to improve environmental sustainability and how do individual country offices operate in practice?

We understand our role as a leading company in cycling and therefore, over the past 2 years, environmental sustainability has become part of our core values.shimano softgoods

But I'll be honest, being an Asian company is limiting us in our efforts and communication about it. As you will have understood, in Europe we are far ahead in terms of sustainability compared to Asian countries. Alongside this, Shimano Japan is very afraid of being accused of greenwashing. Since we produce metal components, sustainability is a sensitive subject and we are studying how to proceed in a more sustainable way. The good thing is that we own all our factories and therefore we can implement and monitor sustainability and social responsibility.

How is Shimano trying to reduce its environmental impact and improve the conservation of the environment in which we all ride, talking about softgoods products?

From the perspective of our softgoods (apparel and accessories) team, we are actively working to reduce the environmental impact of our products from creation to end-of-life. Our goal is to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of our items.

At the moment, we mainly focus on the production stage due to resource limitations. To minimize our environmental impact during manufacturing, we make sustainable choices such as proximity sourcing of our fabric and trims. Indeed, our SS23 collection includes 90% recycled materials and we source exclusively from GRS or OEKO-TEX certified fabrics. We also work closely with our factories to prioritize green manufacturing processes and reduce waste generation.shimano softgoods revoshimano softgoods moa

Single-use plastic has been eliminated and our packaging is made from 100% recycled low-density plastic, which can easily be recycled again. While we recognize that there is room for improvement, we are confident that we are moving in the right direction. Our next target is the consumer. We want to promote cycling, encourage buying quality rather than quantity, and better cycling habits. Exploring options such as setting up collection points for recycling is part of our plan. However, please note that these initiatives are specific to the softgoods division and as a global company, implementation may require time and coordination on various aspects.

The recycling of raw materials is one of the main levers on which Shimano's softgoods division can act. But it gets better, right? The REVO shorts for MTB come to mind.

As mentioned above, the recycling of raw materials is a crucial part of our softgoods team's environmental sustainability efforts. It's where we can have the biggest impact right now. We strive to use recycled materials whenever we can, both to reduce our environmental impact and to encourage our fabric suppliers to invest in new technologies.

But you know what's even better? The upcycling of fabrics (the process by which the processing of waste materials produces products of higher quality and value). It's a good way to decrease the demand for new resources and save energy. We showcased this approach in our REVO shorts, which are made with recycled airbags. By taking materials that would have ended up in landfills and reusing them in products designed for exploring the trails, we give them a new lease of life.shimano softgoods03

The added bonus is that this fabric is incredibly durable, making the shorts last longer. Our next step is to educate consumers about the importance of using these items for as long as possible or consider reselling them so they don't go to waste. By extending the life of our products, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

I think packaging is one of the big challenges. What do you think?

Yes, I agree, It's really a challenge. We currently use recycled polyester in our packaging. While we recognize that this may not be the optimal solution, it is a material that consumers are familiar with and are more likely to recycle. We have also explored alternatives such as paper packaging, but we need to carefully consider the environmental impact, as the paper manufacturing process consumes a lot of water. It is essential to weigh the pros and cons of each option.shimano softgoods01

To gain a complete understanding, we are currently conducting a life cycle assessment and studying and comparing different packaging approaches. There are also biodegradable materials we could evaluate for packaging. However, this is a sensitive issue as if these materials end up in the wrong waste stream, it can have negative consequences. This is an area where we have the potential to make a significant impact, but it requires a long-term perspective rather than focusing solely on short-term solutions. This is something we are currently working on.shimano pads

There is also a forestation project started with Treedom, right? How does it work?

We have been collaborating with Treedom since 2021, we started collaborating with them to promote our first sustainable MTB collection. Since then we have chosen to expand our commitment and involve all clothing, the forest is called Shimano apparel forest.

Since last year, the main forest has been called Shimano Europe and concides of other forests from various departments within Shimano. At the moment, as Shimano Softgoods, we plan to plant at least 500 trees every year.shimano treedom

Is there anything we as buyers can do to push Shimano to do even better?

As buyers, there are several ways to push Shimano to do even better in terms of environmental sustainability. You can choose and actively support Shimano products that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, such as those made with recycled materials or associated with environmental projects (REVO shorts, for example).shimano softgoods

Providing feedback to Shimano about your environmental concerns and expectations can help drive continuous improvement. Additionally, spreading awareness about sustainable practices and encouraging others to make environmentally conscious choices can help create greater demand for sustainable products and practices within the cycling community.

Thanks Marleen!

Thank Marleen for the quick conversation.

We now can start, even as individuals, to adopt more respectful attitudes and make choices that lead companies like Shimano to continue along the path of sustainability.

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ITA - Cicloviaggiatore lento con il pallino per la scrittura e la fotografia. Se non è in viaggio ama perdersi lungo i mille sentieri che solcano le splendide montagne del suo Trentino e dei dintorni del lago d'Iseo dove abita. Sia a piedi che in mountain bike. Eterno Peter Pan che ama realizzare i propri sogni senza lasciarli per troppo tempo nel cassetto, ha dedicato e dedica gran parte della vita al cicloturismo viaggiando in Europa, Asia, Sud America e Africa con Vero, compagna di viaggio e di vita e Nala.

EN - Slow cycle traveler with a passion for writing and photography. If he is not traveling, he loves to get lost along the thousands of paths that cross the splendid mountains of his Trentino and the surroundings of Lake Iseo where he lives. Both on foot and by mountain bike. Eternal Peter Pan who loves realizing his dreams without leaving them in the drawer for too long, has dedicated and dedicates a large part of his life to bicycle touring in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa with Vero, travel and life partner and Nala.