“Today, the process of creating a carbon neutral performance product does not exist,” Vice President of Adidas Brand Strategy James Carnes said in an email. “We intend to combine the innovation and technology our brands have developed to determine a way to create a performance shoe with the lowest carbon footprint and push the boundaries of today’s industry standards. We are aiming for zero.”
The Allbirds brand has long been rooted in sustainability — the company is known for using renewable materials in its shoes, such as wool and eucalyptus tree fibers in shoe uppers and sugarcane waste, in lieu of plastic, in soles.
Zwillinger also said that getting more companies to rely on sustainable suppliers could help bring costs down for everyone.
“If we share that openly with everyone, it’s fantastic for the planet,” Zwillinger said in a November interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “It’s also good for business … Sharing this is altruistic but also quite pragmatic.”
Getting an industry giant like Adidas on board with using such suppliers could be a major step in that direction for Allbirds.
Allbirds is also largely known for everyday, “athleisure” sneakers, rather than performance sports shoes. The new partnership will combine its background in sustainability with Adidas’ expertise in performance footwear.
“Climate change is perhaps the greatest problem our world and industry has ever faced,” Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown said in an email. “The good news is that there is a path towards victory, but we can only get there if we work together and run faster.”
There’s a long road ahead to create a shoe with no carbon footprint.
Getting that number to zero could be tricky. For one thing, footwear companies tend to have supply chains around the world, and emissions from shipping alone can be significant.
The companies say they plan to “explore innovations that span everything from manufacturing and supply chain to transportation methods as we aim to eliminate carbon emissions,” according to the release.
Adidas and Allbirds are aiming for between 2 and 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in the first version of their shoe collaboration, with later iterations moving toward zero emissions, Adidas’ Carnes said.
While there is no timeline for a product release from the partnership as yet, Carnes said the companies are already working together, and he hopes the partnership will encourage other companies to take similar actions.
“Hopefully this partnership inspires brands to refocus their competitive spirit toward the race against climate change and encourages a collaborative approach to finding better solutions,” Carnes said in an email.