San Francisco-based sneaker brand Allbirds rarely shies away from a challenge. When faced with the issue of petroleum-based, and therefore wholly unsustainable, sneaker soles, the brand took matters into their own hands, developing “SweetFoam,” the first-ever EVA foam made of sugarcane to be used as an alternative. Now, with the footwear industry’s carbon problem at top of mind, Allbirds is once again tackling the issue of sustainability head-on. This time, though, they’re not doing it alone.
Today, the tech-savvy start-up announced an industry-defining collaboration with sports giant Adidas to create a truly carbon-neutral sneaker. According to a press release, the sneaker that results from the team-up, which has been in the works for nine months thus far, will “accelerate solutions to reduce the 700M metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the footwear industry annually.”
“There is an urgent need to reduce our global carbon number, and this mission is bigger than just Allbirds or Adidas,” says the co-CEO of Allbirds Tim Brown. “Whether we realize 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.”
Adidas is showing an equally high level of dedication to the end goal. “Our brands don’t want to just participate in the sustainability conversation,” says Adidas’s VP of Brand Strategy James Carnes, “we want to continue being catalysts and creators of substantial improvement.”
According to the release, “the carbon footprint of a typical pair of running shoes made of synthetic materials is between 11.3 and 16.7 kg CO2.” That footprint, as we know, contributes to climate change. Now consider how many sneakers you’ve purchased and thrown away in your lifetime alone. Add to that the number of sneakers bought and later discarded by the other members in your family, your friend group, your co-workers, and so on. Suffice to say, the carbon footprint from all of those purchases adds up.
Given that both AllBirds and Adidas have already put in place their own commitments toward carbon neutrality — AllBirds with its Tread Lighter program, which showcases the brand’s dedication to measure and reduce emissions; Adidas with its quest to reduce its footprint by 30% by 2030 before becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2050 via the End Plastic Waste campaign — you’ll be hard-pressed to find two companies more equipped to take on this task than these.
“Our great hope is that this partnership will catalyze other people to share both their best ideas and research so that we can work together in the fight to live more sustainably,” says Brown. “This is a problem that won't be solved by one company alone.”
No official dates have been announced, but, given the task at hand, we’ll wait as long as it takes. In the meantime, rest easy knowing that the future of sustainable footwear is in good hands.