Adidas and Allbirds team up to make lowest carbon footprint shoe yet

Global sportswear giant Adidas and woollen shoe brand Allbirds are working together to develop a sport performance shoe with the lowest ever carbon footprint.

Under the partnership, the two brands will open the doors to each other’s suite of sustainable innovations, including new manufacturing and supply chain processes and renewable materials, in the hopes of setting a new industry standard.

“Our brands don’t want to just participate in the sustainability conversation, we want to continue being catalysts and creators of substantial improvement,” James Carnes, Adidas’ vice president of brand strategy, said in a statement about the project.

The footwear industry emits 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to Quantis International, a company that works with brands to develop science-based sustainability strategies.

Adidas and Allbirds have both, separately, committed to reducing their contribution to this figure.

Adidas aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050 as part of its End Plastic Waste initiative. And Allbirds already measures and reduces emissions across the business and offsets anything remaining to be 100 per cent carbon neutral.

But Tim Brown, co-CEO of Allbirds, said the need to reduce our global carbon output is urgent and bigger than any individual company’s mission.

“Whether we [realise] it or not this is a race that we are all running together as a planet and it is one that trumps the day-to-day competition of individual companies,” Brown said.

“I am hopeful that this partnership will be an example for others to follow as we pursue a more sustainable, net zero carbon future.”

To make the lowest ever carbon footprint shoe, the two companies will be exploring innovations across the entire supply chain – from material choices to manufacturing facilities and transportation methods that utilise renewable energy and fuels.

Currently, the average running shoe has a carbon footprint of approximately 13.6kg, according to a 2013 article in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

The two brands will use Allbird’s life cycle assessment tool to analyse the carbon footprint of the shoe they develop. At the same time, Adidas said the shoe must meet its high performance standards.

“While we are [prioritising] the planet, we’re staying committed to improving the athlete’s experience,” Carnes said. “That means the end result should yield no compromises for athletes or the planet.”

Allbirds was founded in New Zealand in 2014 with a mission to make environmentally friendly footwear. Its first collection featured shoes made out of New Zealand superfine merino wool and it has since developed runners made out of eucalyptus leaves.

Its headquarters are now in San Francisco and, in 2018, it had a valuation of US$1.4 billion. Allbirds sells direct-to-consumer online and operates 17 bricks-and-mortar stores around the world. It does not currently have any stores in Australia.

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