09/06/20 What We Can All Learn From Adidas & Allbirds Collaboration

Allbirds and Adidas embark on a collaboration project to create a shoe with the lowest ever carbon footprint, signalling the first time in history that Adidas has collaborated with another footwear brand that did not sit under its own umbrella. That’s huge!

This is a significant milestone and one that shouldn’t fall under the radar. Instead, it should be celebrated and adopted by many more. After all, the phrase “collaboration over competition” isn’t new to the sustainability scene. Unsurprising really, as you can’t solve a global problem like climate change by focusing on individual gains at the expense of the collective good. Yet as obvious as this is, there is little evidence to suggest this is happening, at least on the brand level.

Exactly why it’s so inspiring to see two very successful brands in their own right coming together in such a way. The two announced their plan to “open the doors to each other’s suite of sustainable innovations” in an effort to create a shoe with the “lowest carbon footprint ever recorded” for footwear in the sport performance category. This marks the first time Adidas has partnered with a footwear brand not under its own umbrella, according to a representative for Allbirds.



Image courtesy: Allbirds

“The recent progress that our brands have made in the name of sustainable innovation has created the perfect momentum for this partnership to influence industry practices forever,” James Carnes, VP of brand strategy at Adidas, said in a statement

The coming together of these two brands is so striking, particularly since the two have been tirelessly working towards achieving the same goal for some time: to create the most sustainable performance sneaker.

A little over a year ago, Adidas announced Futurecraft Loop, its circular design project centred on trainers that the brand hopes could be endlessly recycled. And in April, Allbirds launched its first-ever running shoe, made with materials that “have the potential to suck more carbon out of the atmosphere than they take to produce.”

In other words, the two companies have every reason to see one another as competition, yet have opted to collaborate instead. And as such, they have outlined their joint intention to “set a new industry standard” together by lowering the carbon footprint of the average running shoe, which currently sits at about 13.6 kilograms of CO2.

“There is an urgent need to reduce our global carbon number, and this mission is bigger than just Allbirds or Adidas,” Tim Brown, co-CEO of Allbirds, said in a statement. “Whether we realize 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.”

Let’s not underestimate the challenge at hand, though. At present, neither company has a solution in place but they have declared their intention to work together, relying on Adidas’s gear performance standards and Allbirds’s life cycle assessment tool to create a better product than either company could on its own.

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

Only time will tell. What we can hope for now though is that by openly collaborating in such a way and foregoing competition, this will inspire other sustainably-minded companies to follow in their footsteps.