Allbirds Unveils Ambitious Plan to Slash Carbon Footprint in Half by 2025

Oh, and corporate bonuses will be tied to hitting those carbon goals.

Allbirds runners
An assortment of Allbirds runners.

Getty Images/Tommaso Boddi

Allbirds just doesn't stop. It seems that every few months the innovative shoe and apparel maker rolls out another impressive product or ambitious plan to slash its carbon footprint, and hopefully inspire the rest of the industry to follow suit. 

The latest news is Allbirds' Flight Plan—a detailed list of ten science-based sustainability goals that will enable it to (a) reach a 50% reduction in its per-unit carbon footprint by 2025, and (b) drive the per-unit carbon footprint as close to zero by 2030, while committing to an average of less than 1 kg carbon dioxide equivalent per product.

This differs from the approach taken by most companies these days. Many like to talk about "net-zero" emissions, relying on offsets to reduce or neutralize emissions, but Allbirds wants to go much further than that. It is holding itself to a standard that far exceeds that of its competitors.

As Allbirds explains in the Flight Plan, "We don't think just offsetting our emissions and calling it a day should earn us a gold star. It should be the admissions fee—chapter one in our mission to ultimately have zero emissions to begin with." After all, when strategies are developed that reduce the carbon footprint to zero, the need for offsets is eliminated altogether. 

How will Allbirds go about slashing the carbon footprint of its products by half over the next five years (which, we should point out, is an extremely short timeline)? The Flight Plan lays out the individual targets. By 2025:

  • 100% of Allbirds' wool will come from regenerative sources and 100% of on-farm emissions from wool will be reduced or sequestered
  • 75% of materials used in Allbirds products will be sustainably sourced natural or recycled materials
  • Allbirds will reduce the carbon footprint of its raw materials by 25%
  • Total raw materials used by Allbirds will be reduced by 25% 
  • The projected lifetime of Allbirds’s footwear and apparel products will double
  • 100% renewable energy will be sourced for "owned and operated" facilities
  • A steady state of 95%+ ocean shipping will be achieved
  • 100% of customers will be reached regarding the value of machine washing on cold and 50% of customers on hang-drying apparel 

The ambitious goals continue. Allbirds has established a Sustainability Advisory Board made up entirely of external individuals to hold the company accountable, and—perhaps most impressively—it is tying all corporate bonuses for the leadership team to carbon goals.

Allbirds recently launched carbon footprint labels on all its products and made them open-source so that other companies can adopt if desired. It partnered with Adidas to create a shoe that has the lowest carbon footprint of any performance runner on the market—a mere 2.94kg CO2e, which represents a 63% reduction from a comparable runner.

It has extensive experience with using innovative natural and engineered materials, including merino wool, cushioning foam made from sugarcane, and fabrics made from eucalyptus and discarded snow crab shells. A recent $2 million investment in the development of plant-based leather hopes to add a "leather" made from vegetable oil and natural rubber to its lineup by the end of 2021. As reported by Treehugger earlier this year, this material would have 40 times less carbon impact than real leather and produce 17% less carbon than synthetic leather made from petroleum-based sources.

The path is clear and the goals are laid out, but Allbirds still has its work cut out for it if it hopes to succeed by 2025. Nevertheless, it is impressive and refreshing to see a company refusing to be complacent, making bold promises, and explaining exactly how they plan to achieve them. We need more of this.