NEW YORK, United States — Footwear brands Adidas and Allbirds are partnering up to tackle an ambitious goal: produce a performance sneaker that “emits as close to zero carbon as possible,” said Adidas’ Vice President of Brand Strategy James Carnes.
The German sportswear giant and the upstart direct-to-consumer brand have decided to co-create a shoe with the goal of bringing it to market sometime in the spring or summer of 2021. From materials to shipping and packaging, every element of the process will be focused on carbon reduction.
“They were sustainable from day one and we are trying to get 100 percent sustainable over time,” said Carnes. “We have not worked with a competitor like this, certainly not on this scale.”
Carnes and Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown told BoF the project came out of a desire to create a tangible product that could prove that the sportswear industry can create an environmentally responsible product that still worked for athletes — and do it sooner rather than later.
“So many of the pledges around sustainability are in the long distance future,” said Brown. “What could we actually do now to accelerate the process?”
Since 2019, Allbirds has made carbon emission reduction a top priority, introducing a “carbon tax” to offset emissions and partnering with Clean Agency to calculate its carbon footprint and give each of its shoe styles a carbon rating.
In January, Adidas pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. It also pledged to use only recyclable polyester in all its products by 2024.
While the coronavirus pandemic might undermine some of those larger goals by destabilising supply chains, the Allbirds and Adidas partnership is sticking to its timetable of one year.
Even before pandemic forced lockdowns across the US and Europe, the teams had planned to work together remotely anyway to also cut down on carbon emissions.
In a post-pandemic future, customers are expected to be even more motivated to buy products that are less destructive to the earth. According to The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company’s coronavirus update to the State of Fashion report, lockdowns are expected to push consumers to shop from purpose-driven brands.