Harley Davidson’s green approach

Written by Emanuela Piccoli

Harley-Davidson Motor Company is one of America’s most renowned brands. It is impossible not to recognize the throaty rumble of Harley Davidson’s motorcycles. Their success is based on a very long tradition (110 years), which has drawn a faithful customer base. They identify the brand as a chance to distinguish themselves and are very fond of traditions. Consequently, customers often reject attempts of innovation.
Despite the reluctance, throughout the past 15 years Harley Davidson has moved forward with environmental sustainability, which is strictly linked to «customer’s dreams of personal freedom and to the motorcycling experience». Many proactive steps have been made in favor of environmental sustainability:
Waste reduction and recycling
Energy efficiency
Resource conservation
The main source of greenhouse gas emissions is the energy used for the manufacturing plant. Its greenhouse gas emissions dropped 40 % from 2004 to 2010 and, furthermore, they forecast less than 5% waste by 2017 and less than 2 % by 2022. 
Then, they started a program to reduce energy consumption by simply shutting down equipment and lighting when not in use and created a central lighting control system, which allows facility managers to program lights to automatically turn off during periods of no occupancy.

The company has also promoted the “Renew the Ride” project, which allows customers and stakeholders to engage in some activities, such as trees planting and donations to the Nature Conservancy. At the company’s 110th anniversary, Harley-Davidson’s employees planted 110 trees in a park located in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley and they plan to plant 111000 trees in 2014. 

Another aim is a simultaneous improvement in efficiency and CO2 (and other emissions) decrease, which may require motorcycle manufacturers to develop and adapt technologies employed in the products, requiring new and innovative motorcycle designs.

Eventually, the biggest step forward sustainability has to be "LiveWire”, H-D’s first electric motorcycle, which was launched in June 2014. Last year, Project LiveWire travelled to cities in North America, offering many consumers the opportunity to ride and provide feedback on the bike and, now, it’s about to reach Europe. Retail availability of Project LiveWire will depend on consumers’ inputs.

A sign of a will to include electric bikes in their offer, but without adopting an entirely new business model and without disappointing old-school supporters. The concern with electric motorcycles is the limited range: the batteries must be recharged after about 130 miles, and that can take 30 minutes to an hour. Riders would likely lose patience with the technology. In fact, while the top selling brand of electric bikes Zero Motorcycles sold just 2400 motorcycles, H-D alone sold more than 260000 conventional motorcycles in 2013.

H-D focuses not only on the short-term goals, but also on the innovation, in order to be competitive and strategically place itself in the market. 

A very significant step by the company, which we hope would influence other companies and inspire a much greater awareness on this topic.