adidas and Allbirds team up for a shoe with <3kg CO2 footprint — here’s how
We speak to the two rival sportswear companies on possibilities, challenges, and what’s more to come after today’s unveiling of what’s said to be ”the lowest carbon running shoe ever” — the FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT collaboration.
12 May 2021

At 2.94kg CO2e, the collab shoe represents a personal best for both brands as the result of a collective ambition to make a performance running shoe with no carbon footprint. They teamed up to forge a unique partnership: opening up their materials, supply chains, and innovations to each other.

Jad Finck, VP of Innovation & Sustainability, Allbirds, what would you say is the most ground-breaking with FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT?

— Two brands putting competition aside to come together in the name of climate change is the most exciting aspect for me. If we’re going to tackle what is, in our minds, the problem of our generation we need to start working collaboratively and stop keeping industry secrets to ourselves. We would have never been able to create a performance shoe with such an incredibly low carbon footprint within the space of a year had we worked on this separately. By having access to each other’s innovations and manufacturing practices, we were able to play to our strengths and come up with brand new solutions. One such example is the shoe’s midsole, which is made from Allbirds’ sugarcane-based EVA SweetFoam and adidas’ Lightstrike sole, which combines high performance with low-carbon properties. This project really showed we’re better together.

Can you share some insights that you have gained throughout the project?

— We discovered how motivating it can be to have a laser-focused goal — making the lowest carbon running shoe ever — where the mission was beyond simple competition between brands, but rather a race for the planet. It allowed normally competitive companies to apply all their abilities in the same direction, and we achieved much more, much faster than either could have alone, says Finck. 

Kimia Yaraghchian, product manager, adidas, what made this project so challenging?

— To create something that has never been done before — and in just over a year of virtual collaboration. We had to put aside competition between our companies and work as one — something neither of our brands had done to that extent previously. We had to also ”unlearn” a lot of the ways of working we were so used to and really question the way we do things. Design-process-wise, we call this ”the art of reduction”. Working remotely on a project like this was difficult, especially as we were all having to work across completely different time zones but although it has had its challenges, it’s been incredibly rewarding.

Why was Allbirds the ultimate partner for this collab?

— Both of our brands acknowledged that the pace of the industry’s sustainability improvement is too slow. We believe that collaboration, and not competition, is needed to accelerate the race to combat climate change. We both strive to continuously push the boundaries of sustainable practices, so it made sense for us to combine our capabilities and work towards a common goal. Hopefully, this collaboration will inspire our industry to be more creating a space to share our materials, supply chains, and learnings with one another, says Yaraghchian.

In what ways will you continue to reduce your CO2 emissions onwards?

— Our goal is to have our business act like a tree, which breathes in and reduces carbon just by existing, and leave the planet cleaner than we found it, so my team and I are constantly looking at ways we can continue to decarbonise the business, from new material innovations to making the supply chain more efficient. A great example of the kind of work we’re doing is our recent commitment that by 2025, 100% of our annual on-farm emissions from wool will be reduced or sequestered through regenerative agriculture practices. We know we can’t rely on one silver bullet, so we’re investing in lots of different solutions in the race to zero, says Jad Finck, Allbirds.

— We are on a mission to help end plastic waste. As a leading sportswear brand, we have a responsibility to use our size and influence to take action to fix the plastic waste problem. We are aiming to reduce our CO2 footprint per product by 15% by 2025 and from 2024 onwards, we are aiming to use recycled polyester in every product where a solution exists. The work so far has helped to provide the foundation for us to create FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT. At this stage of the collaboration, the 2.94 CO2e/pair was the lowest that we could go without compromising the performance and durability of the product but we are continuing to look at ways to reduce the carbon emissions of our footwear, says Kimia Yaraghchian, adidas.

FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT will be available in a limited release of 100 pairs in May before the launch in FW21