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Innovation

Allbirds Focuses On Sustainability As Wall Street Watches

Dan Gold

The November initial public offering of sustainable fashion brand Allbirds marked another milestone in the evolution of the green economy, as the company’s stock price nearly doubled on the first day of trading to bring its value up to more than $4 billion. The IPO made a lot of noise on Wall Street, but Allbirds itself has been equally focused on 10 new sustainability goals it unveiled over the summer.

Photo Courtesy Allbirds News Releases

Based in San Francisco, Allbirds uses naturally derived materials to make footwear and apparel products in an eco-friendly way. The company was founded in 2014 by former New Zealand soccer player Tim Brown and biotech engineer Joey Zwillinger.

The pair originally came up with a superfine New Zealand merino wool to make sneakers. They then added other materials such as a eucalyptus tree fiber, knit fabric, and a sugarcane-based EVA foam to broaden their product lineup. Allbirds has since organized as a Certified B Corp, and became carbon-neutral in 2019.

Financially, Allbirds has been on a fast growth track, though not without a few bumps along the way. It now serves customers in 35 countries and racked up more than $180 million in revenue during the first three quarters of 2021, a gain of 29% from the prior year. Its shares, which trade on the Nasdaq under the ”BIRD” ticker symbol, have lost about half their value since their opening day closing price of $28.89. The company continues to lose money as it invests in growth, but executives sound confident it is on the right track.

 “We’re at the forefront of a generational change in consumer values and purchase behaviors, led by our mission to make better things in a better way—which means we’re aligning our purpose of reversing climate change with our product quality and financial outcomes,” Co-CEO Zwillinger said in a third-quarter earnings release. “Looking ahead, we believe Allbirds is uniquely positioned in an exceptionally large and growing market. As we continue to execute our strategic plan, we are focused on accelerating growth, creating value for our shareholders and building for a multi-decade journey.”

Photo Courtesy Martin Sanchez

That journey includes looking for new and innovate ways to lower its carbon footprint. To that end, Allbirds introduced an ambitious plan in June that included 10 science-based sustainability goals. Dubbed the “Allbirds Flight Plan,” its primary focus will be on regenerative agriculture, renewable materials, and responsible energy use. The plan is to meet all 10 targets by 2025 as a way of demonstrating its commitment to finding near-term solutions.

Here’s how the goals breakdown by category:

Regenerative Agriculture:

  • Source all of its wool from regenerative sources
  • Ensure that 100% of its annual on-farm emissions from wool will be reduced or sequestered 

Renewable Materials:

  • Ensure that 75% of the materials used in Allbirds products are sustainably sourced natural or recycled materials
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of its raw materials by 25%
  • Reduce the total raw materials it uses by 25 percent
  • Double the lifetime of Allbirds’ footwear and apparel products 

Responsible Use:

  • Source 100% renewable energy for owned and operated facilities
  • Source 100% renewable energy for Tier 1 manufacturing partners
  • Achieve a steady state of more than 95 percent ocean shipping to save money and carbon when compared to shipping by air
  • Persuade all of its customers to machine wash Allbirds apparel with cold water, and persuade half of its customers to hang-drying its apparel 

Hana Kajimura, Allbirds’ Head of Sustainability, told Forbes that the company took the cradle-to-grave approach” to its carbon footprint, including product use, end of life, and corporate emissions.

“We think we should be accountable to the impact of our product even after it leaves our door,” she said. “For example, on customer use, there are a few things that we have control over, and then there are a few things that we can do our best to influence.” 

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