Each Allbirds shoe is given a unique carbon footprint tag, notifying customers the amount of carbon that was emitted to produce this shoe along the duration of its production. Allbirds is a highly transparent company that wants to make it clear to customers the environmental burden they are taking on when they purchase a shoe and hopefully to communicate to them the importance of keeping this in mind when purchasing any good. Statistics have shown that the “standard sneaker has a carbon footprint of 12.5 kg C02e” while the average Allbirds shoe lies much lower at 7.6 kg C02e.
The Allbirds shoe is made up of a combo between New Zealand Merino wool, sugar-based ethanol for the rubbery material, wood from Eucalyptus and other types of trees, to make a new kind of wool called Trino yarn that is soft, strong, and most importantly sustainable. Trino wool is an excellent material that has been meticulously made to ensure maximum comfort, while maintaining a completely-natural standard. All the trees sourced by Allbirds are sourced from South Africa, because they use a natural form of irrigation, rainfall, and the trees are FSC certified, a certification that guarantees the fair treatment of workers and the sustainable harvest and replenishment of forests. Allbirds works in close coordination with ZQ Merino, an organization that ensures the wool the company uses is held to “high standards of farming, land management, and animal welfare.” The company even makes use of recycled bottles for the shoelaces, castor bean oil for the insoles, and cardboard for who knows what! The Allbird shoe company has clearly come up with an extremely sustainable shoe that is made completely from natural, renewable materials each accounted for by reputable third-party organizations. They will move towards a three star “What its made of” rating when there shoes are carbon zero.
Allbirds tracks the entire carbon cycle of each one of their shoes, including the manufacturing process which usually ends up adding 1.1 kg C02e on average, however their transportation emissions are counted in their companies total emissions and they are adequately transparent on this fact (meaning transportation emissions are not taken into account when calculating the total carbon footprint of one shoe). The company is B Corps certified as explained above meaning their workers are treated very fairly and their employee populus is verified to be diverse. On the “career” page on their website, the company incentivised their positions by advertising their team brunches, fun company outings, inspiring guest speakers and more, making it seem like a great place to work. Allbirds manufactures their wool in New Zealand, their shoes in Italy, and ships most of their final product to several distributions centers in the US, New Zealand, and Canada. The company specifically chooses to manufacture their shoes in areas with a low carbon electrical grid to minimize their carbon footprint through their use of electricity. According to an MIT transportation study, “long-haul air freight generates up to 47 times the emissions per-ton mile as ocean freight”, so Allbirds uses shipping 80% of the time and the air the other 20% when moving materials and products long distances. There are a growing amount of walk-up Allbirds retail stores in the US especially, shortening the distribution distance ever-more and each pair of shoes is packaged in a recyclable box made from 90% recycled materials. Allbirds does their best to green their supply chain and all carbon emissions accumulated during their manufacturing process are offset by carbon credits, but I feel that the company does have room for improvement on this side of their businesses when they do decide to push for carbon negative.
Allbirds footwear was started when native New Zealander Tim Brown, knowledgeable about the renewable and strong qualities of Merino wool partnered with renewable engineer Joey Zwillinger to create a simple, yet comfortable and almost entirely naturally made shoe. The Allbirds company is B Corp certified, a rigorous certification that assesses the social and environmental responsibility of a company and rewards it with a prestigious certification. B Corp has certified 3,445 companies that have been verified to maintain fair environmental and social practices from the time the materials are sourced, to the way workers are treated, and the life cycle analysis of the product itself. Allbirds is an entirely carbon neutral business with a very low carbon footprint that they offset with carbon credits.
The company offers a 30-day warranty policy on every pair of shoes to every customer so if they are unsatisfied with the product the shoes can be returned. The number of shoes that are returned are donated to the Soles4Souls nonprofits that distributes slightly used shoes and clothes to impoverished people around the US and the world, placing used goods in the hands of the needy instead of the landfill. Allbirds has also partnered with several brands and organizations like JustWater, Shake Shack, Air New Zealand and others to create new products that are naturally-sourced and transparent with the carbon their businesses emit during their supply-chain, manufacturing process and more. Allbirds is a quality company, striving to change the face of the unsustainable industry the belong to by offering fully transparent carbon emission tags on all their products, making the carbon neutral pledge, and becoming B Corp certified. This will be a three planet company when they execute their goal to go carbon negative, which is surely in the near future for this ambitious shoe company.