‘The most sustainable e-bike manufacturer in 2025’
Riese & Müller has a clear vision in mind. The German manufacturer took the lead in the industry with their idea to become the most sustainable e-bike company. ‘Transparency in the supply chain’ is a prominent topic on their sustainability agenda.
Sustainable business is above all acting responsibly for both people and companies. This attitude has always been a key part of Riese & Müller's culture and, since 2019, also of their strategic positioning. Riese & Müller CEO Dr. Sandra Wolf talks about this ongoing and long-term process, and the steps taken to drive it forward every year.
Why is transparency in the supply chain so important?
The supply chain is a major topic in the bike industry. We work with a global network and therefore it’s very important that we have a close look at the countries we work with. We have created heat maps to show problems and risks that we face. Transparency is essential to find out where you have to dig deeper and where you have to work on solving problems in the sustainability chain.
How did your Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers respond to this focus on transparency? Was there any opposition, or only cooperation?
We started to work on this transparency in our supply chain almost two years ago, and in general our suppliers were very cooperative. But of course, there are also suppliers that are reluctant and that we have to convince of the importance of transparency. It gets even more complex to go to Tier 2 and Tier 3 as everybody is dependent on what their suppliers are doing.
“Transparency is essential to find out where you have to dig deeper and where you have to work on solving problems in the sustainability chain”
Did your initiative for more transparency, for example via Sustainabill.com, trigger any follow-up from other component and/or bicycle manufacturers?
The Sustainability Project is a cloud based project where we try to find out more about the transparency of our supply chain. This also helps us to connect our supplier’s network with a heat map, which means a map of risk that you usually have in some countries, be it modern slavery or corruption. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our suppliers in those countries have the problem, but at least we get a better insight into those countries and problems. We learned that this topic is very, very complex. It required a lot of preparation before our suppliers were able to put in their data.
How did the supply chain constraints during the pandemic and up to today disrupt your choice for suppliers?
We started the project on transparency right before the pandemic. We had big ambitions, especially in terms of visiting all our suppliers around the world, to do visual audits by ourselves. Up until today it is still quite difficult to visit all of our suppliers. So it is very hard to dig deeper into the supply chain. Even now that we are sort of ‘back to normal’, it is much more difficult to get a deeper insight into the supply chain or check the local situation yourself. We try our best, but still we are not on the same level as we planned to be before the pandemic.
Regarding the products you source, you wrote that “not all of them can be produced ecologically or be 100% recycled”. What initiatives have you planned to change that or will you simply phase them out in your product design?
Our first and utmost target is to have a customer riding safely on a bicycle, which means that if we are looking for an ecological product or component, of course even safety has to come first. Sometimes we decide that the less ecological component is safer.
Our main initiative is to look at all components and see where we can find a sustainable alternative. Of course, we first look at our existing suppliers for sustainable options before looking for others. In the next five years, we want to ensure that every component is ecological and recyclable.