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Eco-Friendly Ground Effect

01 April 2012

The Christchurch Press

Sustainable business practice has been at the heart of Christchurch cycle clothing manufacturer Ground Effect for almost 20 years. It is proof positive that minimising a business's environmental footprint and running a commercially successful business are not mutually exclusive goals.

Ground Effect has been manufacturing and selling a range of cycle clothing and accessories since 1994. Their produce line up spans shorts, jackets, tops, gloves, hats and socks tailored to various niches whether it be mountain biking, commuting, touring or road cycling. The company's two biggest markets are New Zealand and Australia but also export via their website to customers further afield.

While other apparel companies have largely withered and died in the face of the onslaught of mass produced cheap imports from Asia, Ground Effect has continued to flourish.

Guy Wynn-Williams who founded the business with co owners Fraser McLachlan and Steve van Dorsser, says from the outset concern for the environment both direct and indirect has guided the business's formation and ongoing development.

'It always felt right for us to be involved in the business of cycling. It is inherently good for the planet - encouraging and enabling people to ride bikes. Bicycles deliver so much good for society: as recreation they get us outside and keeps us fit; as transport they counter the increasing trends of increased congestion and energy consumption."

The sustainability ethos cuts across all levels of their business starting with their decision to make good quality long lasting clothing rather than take the cheap throw away option. Aside from the environmental benefits at a broader level, Wynn-Williams says it is good for business.

"We never questioned this approach. We figured we'd get more repeat customers and that has proved to be the case."

Some of the profits they make are diverted into promoting cycling and helping develop recreational cycling facilities, in addition to which staff take time to advocate for cycle access and also work on building and maintaining trails. They also sponsor cycle events and races as part of their commitment to promoting cycling as often as they can.

Almost everything they make is made in Christchurch with with just their cycle gloves made overseas.

"We design and manufacture almost everything locally so it is the ultimate sustainability story in terms of our supply chain."

The company's premises in Ferrymead was designed by the company's owners to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. The two story structure is orientated to maximise the free heat from the sun with extensive north facing glazing which pours into the lounge/kitchen area behind which is the office space. All hot water comes from solar hot water heating system installed on the roof.

So effective are these two features Wynn-Williams says the building's entire heating and hot water bill for 2011 was just $600. He adds: "It just makes sense to us to use less energy."

"We have a pellet fire installed on the ground floor. It doesn't work very hard though with so much solar gain. The office space stays at an even 20°C through the winter."

Downstairs the sustainability theme continues as the building features a purpose built room for storing bikes important as all staff bike to work. It features not only cycle racks but also a fully equipped workshop where staff can work on their bikes as well.

The only problem they have encountered with their building is the city council requirement the premises had to have dedicated carparking which Wynn-Williams says are not only seldom used but compromised the eco friendly design of the building.

Wynn-Williams is at pains to put out Ground Effect does not go out of its way to highlight the sustainability ethos behind their business and can't even quantify what the benefits are in dollar terms

"We do it because it is right for us and what we believe in and we know our brand has integrity behind it and our customers have a reasonable appreciation of what we are on about."

Wynn-Williams adds taking a sustainable approach to running a business is not something which can be rushed and nor should quick results be expected.

"You cannot be in a panic. Sustainability is a patient person's sport but for a lot of people that approach resonates."