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Why Allbirds Isn’t Launching a ‘Sustainable Public Equity Offering’ Anymore

Allbirds has dropped the “Sustainable Public Equity Offering” framing it touted in its original IPO filing.

The Silicon Valley favorite built its brand on its eco ethos. It has committed to using 100 percent of its wool products from regenerative sources by 2025, invested millions in plant-based leather and partnered with Adidas to develop a performance running shoe that slashes carbon emissions. Its suite of natural materials includes wool, eucalyptus tree fibers and sugarcane.

On Aug. 31, it made headlines not just for finally filing to go public, but for how it was doing so. Its IPO would be different, what it called a “Sustainable Public Equity Offering,” or SPO.

A panel hosted by the sustainable business organization BSR led the effort to establish the precise criteria for an SPO. Members of the 20-person body included two Allbirds employees, BSR president and CEO Aron Cramer, “thought leaders” and stockholders. Allbirds’ initial S-1 filing included the full framework that this group produced. Criteria included a minimum environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating; a plan to establish within one year a net zero emissions target of no later than 2040; and policies or programs designed to require Tier 1 suppliers to address “its most material environmental issues.”

On Sep. 27, however, Allbirds filed an amendment to its S-1 filing. The new document removed all references to a Sustainable Public Equity Offering, replacing the concept with the term “Sustainability Principles and Objectives Framework,” or SPO Framework. Another amendment, filed Monday, cut references to this SPO Framework in half.

These changes, however, do not necessarily mean Allbirds is walking back its commitments around sustainability. Each criterion listed under the new SPO Framework is substantively identical to those listed in the original S-1 filing. Rather, the most significant changes occurred where Allbirds analyzes the risks related to the SPO Framework and associated disclosures, with the more recent document omitting several paragraphs of often repetitive text.

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More notably, the latest amendment appears to tone down language talking up the SPO Framework’s role as a model for other companies. Two references to helping “pioneer a framework for companies going public,” for example, are omitted from Monday’s filing. The sentence, “We believe the SPO Framework establishes meaningful issuer criteria, against which an independent third party can assess us, as described below, and also provides a repeatable framework that other companies can utilize,” was entirely removed.

BSR, however, appears to remain fully behind the wider adoption of its SPO Framework. In fact, since redefining SPO—it too originally used the term to mean Sustainable Public Equity Offering—it has expanded the framework’s use case from “companies transitioning from private to public” to “late-stage private companies, companies preparing to go public, and early-stage public companies.” Like Allbirds, it has left the specific criteria unchanged.