3 March 2023
Three Things I Love about Allbirds
I love three things about Allbirds . They label each of their products with its individual carbon footprint, they’ve developed alternative lower carbon raw materials for shoes, and they have a policy of sharing all their innovations openly with everyone.
As you see from the image above they display the #carbonfootprint of each individual product from cradle to grave. This allows us as consumers to make a more informed decision in the same way we check calories and nutritional values on the foods we buy. And they openly share the Life Cycle Assessment tool they use to calculate the carbon footprint.
The founder of Allbirds, the New Zealand former football professional Tim Brown, comes from a country where sheep outnumber humans by 6 to 1. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that his first alternate material for making shoes was wool – merino wool. The wool shoes he launched in 2016 had a 60% lower carbon footprint than typical synthetic shoes and were remarkably comfortable. By 2017 the New York Times was talking about how Allbirds were the only shoes to wear in Silicon Valley.
Since then Allbirds has gone on to develop Tencel Lyocell (a sustainable alternative to viscose), Sweet Foam, a sugarcane-based EVA used in Allbirds shoe soles, and Trino, made from a blend of Merino wool and Lyocell. Allbirds shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles.
According to Vogue Business Allbirds has invested $2million in developing its first plant-based sneaker. This uses Mirum, a technology patented by its partner Natural Fiber Welding that creates a leather-like material by combining and “curing” natural components such as rubber, plant oils and agricultural by-products including rice hulls and citrus peels. Because Mirum is made only from natural materials instead of petroleum and requires no tanning, it has an extremely low carbon footprint, much lower than conventional leather, plastic, or other vegan options.
The Allbirds Flight Plan (how’s that for an appropriate name for their long-term #sustainability plan) is to reduce their carbon footprint by half by 2025 and to almost zero by 2030.
I particularly admire Allbirds’ commitment to sharing the secrets to their innovations with the market. Here is how Tim Brown explains it: “We know that sharing proprietary information might not make the most business sense. But the global climate crisis is bigger than business. And if competition got us into this mess, perhaps collaboration can get us out.”
We could do with more business leaders who think like this!
This is the ninth in a year-long series of weekly blogs by Jean Callanan telling stories of businesses and brands that are doing inspiring and innovative things in addressing #climatechange . Read the background thinking and the stories of Knorr Future 50 Foods, An Post, Good on You, Notpla, Low Carbon Materials , Wren Urban Nest Dublin and Companies Helping us Reduce the Energy and Money we Pour Down the Drain.