There aren't many shoe brands out there trying to keep a minimal impact on the planet. Even if already settled shoe companies are starting to create eco-friendly product lines, when the brand's core values are mainly based on sustainability, it's a completely different story. In this article, I'm focusing on the eco-friendly aspects of Allbirds' products, this is not a review.
Let's dive in the company who created the "world most comfortable shoes".
Allbirds co-founder story
Tim Brown had this idea to create a completely new way to design sneakers that you'll love (really). At this time, he was still the New Zealand football team's vice captain. In 2014, after receiving a grant from the New Zealand wool industry, he launched an insanely successful kickstarter and raised $119,000 in only five days of campaign.
Eco-responsible materials and smart partnerships
Produced from Wool, Tree, and Sugar, on top of several more natural materials, Allbirds achieved to design better shoes.
“Building on Mother's Nature's creations, we are finding new uses for materials that exist right in front of us.”
From tree to shoe
Certified FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®), Alllbirds is pushing the boundaries of shoe production by sourcing its wood from sustainable forests by protecting the fauna and people who depend on them. Fertilizer is minimized to rainfalls (no irrigation).
From sugar to shoe
As the Allbirds' tree exploitation, sugarcane is relying on natural fertilisation (no irrigation). Sugarcane is one of the most self-sufficient resource. When proceed, the extracted biomass is directly used to produce the mill and fertilize the next year's crop. The company is closely working with ProtoForest who are "the world leader in supporting the management and sourcing of natural resources".
From wool to shoe
The company is ensuring that the sheeps they are taking the wool from are living a good life, in New-Zealand where sheep outnumber the humans about six to one. In order to do it, they are working with leading organisations like ZQ Merino (world leading ethical wool), which is standing for animals welfare, environmental sustainability, quality fibre, traceable to source, and social responsibility.
On top of Wool, Tree and Sugar, the company uses castor bean oil to increase the natural content in insoles, and the laces are fully made of recycled bottles. One plastic bottle is enough to produce a pair of rounded lace. The eyelets are created using "bio-tpu."
They can do a bit better, here is how
Allbirds and I aren't quite in love yet. Even if the company is using 90% of recycled cardboard to produce packaging, I can easily imagine a future where it's 100% recycled, recyclable, and compostable.
After having visited several times Boston's shop, I noticed that they are proudly displaying the materials on the wall, and communicating on used materials through a 100% recycled paper four-fold brochure. When you know that information are already available on a dedicated page on their Ecommerce D2C website, they should definitely stop using paper anymore.
Let's go Allbirds, you can do it!
One question remains unanswered. What about the dying job? Are the dyes naturals? I would love to get more information about this specific aspect. especially knowing that the company bases its marketing on ephemera availability of shoe colours.
A B Corporation certified company
“The environment is a stakeholder here, and how we treat it is just as important as the bottom line.”
The B Corp certification is currently the only one measuring the entire social and environmental performance of a company. In many ways the B Impact Assessment is similar to the ISO 27001, but the companies may meet transparency requirements. If you're a business, I'm encouraging you to read the B Corp certification official page to get a better view of the requirements, and the legal updates it means.
The bottom line
Part of these new eco-friendly movements, Allbirds is doing great. The company settled their very own timeless design, that is starting to become a baseline for copycats. By renewing available variants frequently (colours) and upgrading materials and comfort, they're passively pushing customers to repurchase, and it's working.
I'm gonna keep an eye to each improvement this promiseful company is making.