Sustainable footwear brand Allbirds has joined forces with German sportswear giant Adidas to develop a sports performance shoe with what they say will be the lowest ever carbon footprint.

The partnership will see both brands innovate on manufacturing and supply chain processes, in addition to exploring renewable material resources, with the aim of developing a product to launch in 2021. 

The ultimate aim, however, is to drive an industry shift in how brands globally develop and manufacture products, and accelerate efforts to reduce the 700m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by the footwear industry annually.

"Our brands don't want to just participate in the sustainability conversation, we want to continue being catalysts and creators of substantial improvement," says James Carnes, vice president of Adidas brand strategy. 

Tim Brown, co-CEO of Allbirds, adds: "There is an urgent need to reduce our global carbon number, and this mission is bigger than just Allbirds or Adidas. 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. I am hopeful that this partnership will be an example for others to follow as we pursue a more sustainable, net-zero carbon future."

To create a product with the lowest carbon footprint possible, the brands will closely consider material choices, manufacturing facilities, and transportation methods that utilise renewable energy and fuels.

Currently, the average running shoe has a carbon footprint of approximately 13.6 kg CO2. The figure compares to a standard sneaker that Allbirds says has a carbon footprint of 12.5 kg CO2e, based on its Life Cycle Assessment tool, which measures end-to-end carbon emissions and was developed as part of its bid to label all of its products with a carbon footprint.

The tool will be used to analyse the carbon footprint of Adidas' and Allbirds' new performance shoe to ensure the brands are holding themselves to the highest standards.

"Our great hope is that this partnership will catalyse other people to share both their best ideas and research so that we can work together in the fight to live more sustainably," says Brown. "This is a problem that won't be solved by one company alone."

Adidas has committed to a 30% reduction in its carbon footprint by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 as part of its End Plastic Waste initiative. Meanwhile, Allbirds' 'Tread Lighter' programme represents its ongoing practices to measure and reduce emissions across the entirety of the business, offsetting anything remaining to maintain a 100% carbon neutral business.

Allbirds entered the performance market at the end of last month with the launch of its first running shoe made from renewable natural materials including eucalyptus tree fibre, Merino wool, and sugarcane.

The Dasher is also the first Allbirds product to display a physical Carbon Count label and emits 9 kg of carbon dioxide per pair, nearly 30% lower than the estimated average sneaker, according to the firm.