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December 14, 2021

Adidas, Allbirds to scale low-carbon footwear collaboration

Sustainable footwear and apparel company Allbirds and German sportswear giant Adidas are to scale their collaboration to reimagine a lower-emission design process.

By Hannah Abdulla

The sportswear companies have announced the commercial launch of their new Futurecraft.Footprint performance shoe and say the learnings during its development will pave the way to exploring low-carbon design and creation across a broader range of products.

Adidas and Allbirds revealed the Futurecraft.Footprint shoe in May this year which at 2.94kg CO2e per pair, represents a personal best for both brands as the result of a collective ambition to make a performance running shoe with as low of a carbon footprint as possible.

The two are now looking at ways to scale the project in a bid to accelerate the critical race to a carbon neutral future for sports and fashion.

Adidas and Allbirds say the project shows how quickly progress can be made by sharing innovations and collaborating with competitors – an example that has the power to encourage others to rethink business as usual.

“Our ambition is to take Futurecraft.Footprint from moonshot concept to something that sparks systemic change. We wanted to demonstrate how collaboration and an open-source mindset can create a halo effect across the industry and help make progress towards net zero,” Brian Grevy, executive board member Global Brands at Adidas, says.

“Adidas has a heritage of working closely with partners to scale new innovations. We see the possibilities of collaboration and are able to bring expertise in manufacturing, for example – in 2015 we collaborated with Parley to produce a single concept shoe made using recycled ocean plastic, and by the end of 2020, 30m pairs of these shoes had been made.

“Now, our sights are set on a 15% average CO2e footprint reduction on every product by 2025, and Futurecraft.Footprint is a major step forward for this ambition and our journey to create low carbon footwear at scale.”

Both brands made significant learnings during the 12-month innovation sprint that led to the creation of the shoe. Teams across product design, material innovation, sustainability, and supply chain studied every component and all aspects of the process, reimagining materials, manufacturing techniques, and even packaging to reach the lowest possible footprint.

The design of the shoe itself centres around the overall philosophy of “the art of reduction”– giving runners exactly what they need and nothing more. A core part of this was considering pattern efficiency when creating the rolls of material that the individual pieces of the shoe are cut from.

The design teams took inspiration from what is known as the tangram principle, in treating the pieces of material like a tangram puzzle – fitting them perfectly together to minimise wastage, offering a saving on carbon emissions. This concept was applied to both the shoe’s upper and outsole for maximum impact.

Futurecraft.Footprint is also one of the lightest performance shoes Adidas and Allbirds have ever created – further saving on material usage while keeping the performance integrity of the shoe, such as a carved-out midsole structure instead of a torsion bar.

Adidas says these learnings are laying the foundations for what will come next, with the company exploring low-carbon design and creation across a broader range of products, and Allbirds applying project insights and its dedication to engineering natural materials to its portfolio of performance and lifestyle products

Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO at Allbirds, adds: “Futurecraft.Footprint is an important reminder that we can achieve more together than we can separately, especially when it comes to the race against climate change. It’s been incredible to see this go from a simple yet far-fetched idea of the world’s lowest carbon footprint running shoe to a product that consumers can get their hands on in just two years – it’s a testament to the power of collaboration in the face of a daunting challenge.

“We at Allbirds are on our own journey to cut our per-product carbon emissions by 95% by 2030, and the unrelenting focus both teams brought to Futurecraft.Footprint is exactly what we’ll need to achieve this ambitious goal. But far beyond its impact for either of our brands, our hope is that this product can inspire others in the industry to rethink the way things have ‘always’ been done, and that specific learning from our development process can unlock carbon savings for their teams, as well.”

Futurecraft.Footprint

Based on Adidas’ popular LightStrike midsole and tested to the same performance standards, the Futurecraft.Footprint midsole compound is reimagined with Allbirds’ bio-based sugarcane, offering a low-carbon component made in part with natural materials.

Representing another material hybrid, the newly developed upper material is made with 77% recycled polyester and 23% natural Tencel – a material made from wood pulp – for a smooth, lightweight upper that lives up to performance expectations with a reduced carbon impact. Finally, the outsole is made with 10% recycled rubber.

The shoe will launch with a limited drop tomorrow (15 December) at adidas.com, the Adidas and Allbirds apps and select Adidas and Allbirds stores. This will be followed by the wider release featuring four new colourways in spring 2022.

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