Adidas and Allbirds unveil running shoes with ‘lowest recorded’ carbon footprint

Typical shoes are some of the fashion sector's highest carbon and hardest-to-recycle items

Called FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT, the innovative shoes were unveiled today (12 May) and will be made available in a limited run of 100 pairs to Adidas Creators Club members later this month. A further 10,000 pairs will then be made available in the second half of the year.

Adidas and Allbirds have not yet revealed full details about the materials used in the shoes, but said in a statement that they had “opened up their materials, supply chains and innovations” to each other, developing a lighter weight shoe with fewer components, made using low-carbon materials. Aside from materials, the main sources of emissions for footwear are design and manufacturing, so innovation has also been applied at these stages.

Each pair of shoes has a carbon footprint of 2.94 kg of CO2e. Neither Adidas nor Allbirds has produced a shoe with this low a footprint before and the brands claim the shoe is “as close to zero carbon emissions as they could possible achieve”.

“Our partnership with Allbirds is a beacon of what can happen when competing brands from the same industry see the possibilities in coming together to design,” Adidas’s executive board member for global brands, Brian Grevy, said.

“By truly co-creating and providing each other with open access to knowledge and resources – such as Allbirds’ knowledge of carbon calculation and experience with natural materials, and Adidas’ capabilities in manufacturing and performance footwear – this is a call-to-action for other brands, and a milestone in the sports industry achieving carbon neutrality.”  

The road so far

Adidas and Allbirds first announced that they were collaborating to develop the low-carbon shoes in early 2020, setting an ambition to develop the world’s lowest-carbon sports shoes to date.

Adidas has committed to a 30% reduction in its carbon footprint by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, while B-Corp Allbirds has plans of achieving net-zero status, which has been set on an ongoing basis.

Prior to the partnership, Allbirds had already developed a Life Cycle Assessment tool with third-party experts to evaluate the carbon impact of every process across the value chain. It has since fine-tuned the tool to label all products with a ‘carbon output’ and, more recently, open-sourced a version of the tool to help other businesses to follow suit.

“There is an urgent need to reduce our global carbon number, and this mission is bigger than just Allbirds or Adidas,” Allbirds’ co-chief executive Tim Brown said.

“Whether we realise it or not this is a race that we are all running together as a planet and it is one that trumps the day-to-day competition of individual companies.”

Sarah George

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