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John Burke CEO of Trek Bicycle Corporation reveals long term thinking in annual sustainability report

John Burke is taking sustainability seriously

Trek is a private company. This means they do not have to produce an annual report for public consumption. But John Burke is a smart guy and he has his eye on the long term performance of the company. Clearly, he has also had a climate moment that has convinced him that climate change is a real and serious threat to Trek and his grand children (perhaps it was a 50 degree group ride in January in Madison, Wisconsin that did it for him).

Worth the effort to read

Whatever it was, the company now produces an annual Sustainability and Corporate Commitment report. It is the next best thing to an annual report and if you read it closely, you learn a lot about what John Burke and the management team is thinking. It is a long document with a lot of technical information and I doubt the people who celebrated the report on LinkedIn when it came out in August of last year actually read it. But I did and it is worth the effort. 

It’s no longer about the Tour de France

Trek is one of the Big Three and what they choose to do will set the standard for the industry. John Burke is indeed the first bicycle industry professional that I am aware of to recognize that sustainability is the new gold standard for the industry (not the Tour de France). Here are some insights so far from my reading of this document so far. 

Annual greenhouse gas emissions equal to Madison

Trek Bicycle Corporation emitted 895,000 metric tons of carbon equivalents in 2022. According to the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that is equivalent to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy use of 112,800 homes for one year. There are 111,000 households in Madison, Wisconsin so that means in one year, the Trek Bicycle Corporation emits the same amount of carbon as the city where Mr. Burke and many Trek employees live. It’s a lot.

Ninety-six percent of Trek’s greenhouse gas emissions are beyond its control

The key difference is that 96.2 percent of that total of 895,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents are Scope Three emissions. These are indirect emissions related to the supply chain both upstream and downstream. Scope 3 emissions include everything from the purchase and refinement of raw materials (mining aluminum, for example), transportation and distribution (air freight and ocean freight), waste (generated by production activities) to employee commuting,  business travel and recycling. They are beyond the direct control of Trek and are the consequences of having a large and long global supply chain.

Control is everything

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources (such as company HVAC and company-owned vehicles) and Scope 2 emissions are Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy (electricity, heat or steam). Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions account for  2.1 percent and 1.7 percent of the total 895,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents, respectively, and are much easier for Trek to control.

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