Kristy Scrymgeour is a co-founder and partner in Velocio, as well as an advocate for socially conscious business.
What makes Velocio socially responsible?
Social responsibility isn’t just about one aspect of running a business. It’s a mindset. We made it our goal to consider the best way to do things at every step. We make our decisions on every aspect of the business so we can essentially “live our values”.
From the environmental effects of producing our clothing, to our partnerships and what causes we choose to support. Every decision comes down to this question. ‘Is this the best way forward so that the outcome meets our standard and is sustainable.’ Being a young company gives us the chance to make choices right from the beginning that support our values and will shape us as we continue to grow.
Why was this important to you in co-founding the brand?
We are starting our brand at a time where social responsibility shouldn’t be a choice, it should be a given.
We have the benefit of seeing what industrialization has done to the planet; we have seen the human rights issues that can occur with trying to find the cheapest manufacturing costs; and we are in a time where quality and durability come before cost and where equality and human rights are finally being recognized as important. I’m lucky that my partners at Velocio share similar beliefs on all of these issues. So together we can really align ourselves on the smaller day to day decisions, as well as where we want to take the brand long term.
Making great products is important to us. But the impact we have both environmentally and socially is equally important.
What socially responsible goals do you have for the brand going forward?
We know that producing cycling clothing, or anything for that matter, has a carbon footprint. You can get all the certifications you’d like, you can use all the recycled and natural materials available and there’s still an environmental cost. It’s not honest to say, “this is environmentally friendly” and be done with it. Our goal is to continually look for ways to minimize our footprint as we grow and offer a truly great product, a product that doesn’t compromise.
We’ve chosen to work with mills and manufacturers who share our values. We look closely at everything from ethical manufacturing practices, to packaging and shipping methods.
Our manufacturer in Italy uses solar to power 80% of their electricity and 50% of their hot water production. We work with mills that use recycled water and use post-consumer recycled content to produce their yarn. The majority of our fabrics are Bluesign or Oeko-Tex approved. We are using more and more fabrics that use 100% recycled materials, keeping a focus on balancing the durability of a product. That’s a line that’s easy to play off in marketing but the real world is hard on products. You want the gear to last as long as possible.
As we look into the future, we consider the life cycle of our clothing. We make durable high performance products but also to think about what happens at the very end our products life span. This is something I have a lot of experience with from time on teams. We want to prevent adding to the landfill problem that communities are facing all around the world since you can have an environmentally friendly product that doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t last.
Outside of our carbon footprint we really want Velocio to be both inclusive and diverse in its reach, and to support a wide community as we grow.
Cycling as an activity has so many benefits. It can change the lives of young kids through programs like Cycle Kids and World Bicycle Relief which provides bikes to people in developing nations where they have a huge impact. Working with these organizations and with programs like the Conservation Alliance is really important to us.
The cycling world is increasingly disposable; coming from racing, is it hypocritical for you to push social responsibility through Velocio?
It’s starting to hit home for many of us that the world doesn’t have infinite resources. It’s not a choice anymore to think sustainably. It’s a must. We can’t stop living our lives or doing what we love but we can choose the best ways of doing things to protect our environment in every way that we can. Hopefully that can happen in the sport of cycling as well.
The technology and methods are in place for us to make better choices. We know that the technology exists to power the whole of the earth just by laying solar panels is small corners of each land mass. More power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, yet solar only provided less than half a percent of the energy used in the US last year.
We also know that by the year 2020 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
All of these things we need to think of as citizens of the earth but especially as a company manufacturing products. It’s our responsibility to practice sustainability in any way we can.
Who are socially conscious brands, leaders or movements that speak to you?
The good thing is that there are so many industry leaders and movements now that can inspire all of us to take steps in the right direction.
In the clothing industry the obvious leader is Patagonia. Yvon Chouinard began making good choices in the 70’s and has led the way for other companies to follow suit. His decisions on everything from environmental policy to, worker’s conditions and focusing on modest growth rather than rapid growth has resulted in sustainable and repeatable business model.
I’m not really into cars and my preference always lies towards brands like Tesla who are showing that we can in fact continue to drive, but do it in a sustainable way. But in other ways even traditional motor companies like General Motors have started contributing by recycling its scrap metal and selling it off to be reused in other industries, eliminating huge amounts of waste that would otherwise go to landfill. Of course they realized that they could make a profit out of it. They make over a billion dollars a year just by reusing or recycling materials that would otherwise be landfill.
Moving away from environmental issues, I love the story of Dan Price of Gravity Payments, who became famous when he started paying all of his employees a minimum of $70,000/year. He dropped his own salary and mortgaged his house to get the project going but then he realized bigger profits very quickly.
Examples like this show that choosing to be socially responsible doesn’t mean you need to forfeit profit. In fact, it often means the opposite.
Of course with Velocio so new on the market, we’re not quite in the realm of making a huge impact in any of these areas, but we certainly have the opportunity to start in the right direction. Our brand is all about balancing style with performance and not compromising on quality and durability. It’s about making the choices that are good for our customers and good for the environment. It’s one of the joys of our work that we can make the choices that are important to us on this journey.
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