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Allbirds Links Corporate Bonuses to Carbon Goals

Earlier this week, Brooks Running became one of a growing number of companies—Ralph Lauren, Burberry and FedEx, to name a few—to commit to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The goal—though a decade ahead of the popular 2050 target embraced by everyone from President Joe Biden to the oil & gas giant BP—places the running brand well behind Allbirds, which has claimed carbon neutrality since 2019 thanks to its investment in offsets.

The San Francisco-based company isn’t resting on its laurels, however. On Thursday, Allbirds revealed it is aiming to achieve a 50 percent reduction in its per-unit carbon footprint by 2025. The recent Adidas collaborator further committed to bringing its products’ per-unit footprint below 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide equivalent and reducing its absolute emissions by 42 percent when compared to 2020—both by 2030.

Allbirds outlined 10 additional quantitative goals, each reviewed by third-party sustainability organizations, consulting groups and supply chain partners and each timed to 2025. To incentivize follow-through, the company said it is tying corporate bonuses to its carbon goals. Additionally, it has formed a Sustainability Advisory Board made up of external experts to monitor its progress.

While most of the company’s 10 commitments involve behind-the-scenes changes like shifting to 100 percent renewable energy at owned and operated facilities and Tier 1 manufacturing partners, it also includes one much more forward-facing goal: by the middle of the decade, Allbirds plans to double the lifetime of its footwear and apparel.

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In terms of materials, the company said it will grow sustainably sourced, natural or recycled materials to 75 percent of its mix. It also expects to reduce the carbon footprint of its raw materials, as well as total raw materials used, by 25 percent.

The sustainability plan targets energy use too. By the middle of the decade, it expects to source 100 percent renewable energy at both owned and operated facilities and Tier 1 manufacturing partners. In terms of transportation, it is aiming to reach “a steady state” of more than 95 percent ocean shipping.

The company is also looking to decrease the energy used during its products’ life cycle by getting 100 percent of customers to launder its products with cold water in a washing machine and 50 percent to hang dry its apparel.

Hana Kajimura, head of sustainability at Allbirds, offered some insight into how exactly the brand will aim to influence consumer routines toward eco-friendly habits.

“We understand that it’s challenging to guarantee a change in customer behavior, but we believe it’s vital that we measure and are accountable for every aspect of our product’s footprint, including the use phase,” she told Sourcing Journal. In lieu of the “cradle to gate” philosophy many brands ascribe to, Allbirds instead opts for a “cradle to grave” approach, accounting for “emissions generated from inception to disposal,” Kajimura added.

“This is important because up to two-thirds of a product’s carbon footprint, especially for apparel, can come in the use phase,” she said. Much of Allbirds’ work in this area will focus on product care labels, where verbiage will “specifically call out less carbon-intensive ways of washing and drying our products.”

“As for measurement, as a vertical retailer we have a direct relationship with all of our customers, and will be using consumer-facing touchpoints to gather feedback on both lifespan and care methods,” Kajimura said.

Allbirds previously announced two of the 10 commitments—sourcing 100 percent of its wool from regenerative sources and reducing or sequestering all on-farm emissions from wool—in April.

The new sustainability roadmap—or “Flight Plan,” as it calls it—comes as Allbirds continues to build out its arsenal of Earth-friendly alternative materials.

Allbirds’ summer collection builds on its sustainable fabric foundations by introducing hemp fibers for the first time in the young brand’s history.
Allbirds’ ribbed dress is made with 47 percent Merino wool, 28 percent Tencel, 19 percent hemp and 6 percent Spandex. Courtesy

Most known for its wool sneakers, Allbirds expanded into apparel last year. That initial collection of tops and outerwear utilized a range of materials, from its crab shell-based TrinoXO fiber to merino wool, recycled polyester and lyocell.

Allbirds’ summer collection builds on these foundations by introducing hemp fibers for the first time in the young brand’s history.

These latest additions include two items, a camp shirt and short, made with hemp and Tencel’s wood-based lyocell. The pieces come in men’s and women’s sizes, with two color options for the shirt and four for the short. Both are 54 percent hemp, 44 percent Tencel and 2 percent Spandex.

The brand’s summer line also features a ribbed tank and ribbed dress. Both designed to provide a slight stretch, the two items are 47 percent Merino wool, 28 percent Tencel, 19 percent hemp and 6 percent Spandex. The tank comes in four colorways and the dress three.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.