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Amazon Duped Allbirds’ Style. Did it Dupe its Sustainability Profile, Too?

Amazon isn’t just the world’s largest retailer. Since the company began launching its private labels in 2007, the product lines it creates in house have taken on a life of their own—and some products are coming under fire.

Last week, Amazon quietly released a sneaker crafted from wool, strikingly similar in appearance to AllBirds’ popular Wool Runner style.

The Silicon Valley DTC startup, founded in 2016, has reached beyond the Bay Area and its tech bro citizenry to become a worldwide phenom, to the tune of a $1.4 billion valuation. Now, Amazon is seeking to capitalize on the brand’s most popular design with the Galen, a private-label creation that retails for $45—less than half the cost of an AllBirds Wool Runner.

The world was first alerted to the dupe by Jeff Morris, director of product and revenue for dating app Tinder, on Twitter. “Amazon is now straight copying Allbirds. We have reached ‘peak cloning’ in Silicon Valley,” Morris said. “There are no rules anymore—if you build a product that works, Amazon or Facebook will copy it,” he added.

AllBirds co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger wasted no time in weighing in on the situation, tearing into Amazon for its willingness to capitalize on the sustainable style without walking the walk, so to speak.

“Given what I know about manufacturing, there is no way you can sell a shoe for that low while taking care of all of the environmental and animal welfare considerations and compliance we take into account,” he told Fast Company’s Co.Design blog. “Amazon is stating that it wants to be a green company. It should be taking steps to make their products more sustainable.”

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This is far from the first time that Amazon has been accused of copying popular products for its own gain. The company’s Amazon Basics line of electronics and gadgetry is notorious for ripping off third-party sellers’ most popular items—like the Instant Pot, which was a hit on the marketplace for years before being cloned by Amazon Basics over a year ago.

While some of the company’s private-label products are Amazon-branded, many other items ranging from clothing, footwear, accessories and home wares are released under different brand names. The strategy can be confusing for the consumer, who is led to believe that the products come from third-party brands. At worst, it’s a play to obfuscate Amazon products’ origins to gain credibility with shoppers.

The company’s 10,000 private-label products are projected to account for $31 billion in revenue by 2022, up from just $2 billion in 2018. The dramatic spike in sales is due to Amazon’s massive expansion into categories that have proven popular with consumers—as well the aggressive self-promotion that was revealed to be a part of its strategy last week.

A Wall Street Journal report revealed that Amazon routinely boosts its private-label products in search results, according to a team of engineers familiar with the project and building the algorithm that made it possible. Amazon denied the claims in a statement after the report’s release.

The revelations come at an inopportune time for the company, which has been the subject of federal anti-trust investigations in recent months. The company’s dealings have also invited blowback from its largest rivals, like Walmart, Oracle and others, which have reportedly engaged in lobbying efforts to sully Amazon’s reputation.