SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Sustainable footwear pioneer Allbirds has made a $2 million investment in a material innovation company ahead of unveiling a plant-based, ‘leather’ shoe later this year.
Natural Fiber Welding Inc. and its technology will enable the shoemaker to add the 100 percent natural plant-based leather alternative to its line-up of open-source eco-materials.
Made with vegetable oil, natural rubber and other “bio-ingredients”, the material has 40 times less carbon impact than leather and 17 times less carbon than synthetic leather made from plastic, according to the brand. This, the company hopes, will enable it to take another step towards creating genuinely scalable green solutions.
“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” commented Joey Zwillinger, Co-Founder of Allbirds, in a statement referencing the acquisition.
Adding: “Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry.”
Rather than viewing investing in sustainability as a sunk cost, Allbirds has continuously demonstrated that climate-conscious businesses can thrive while prioritising collaboration over competition, and ultimately accelerate the demand for green technology.
Since its launch in 2014, the purpose-lead business has grown to become a billion-dollar-plus startup, selling more than 1 million pairs of shoes. However, despite its extraordinary growth, it continues to flip conventional methods on their head in order to place purpose over profit.
Last year the brand teamed up with sportswear giant Adidas on a pioneering initiative that aims to accelerate solutions to reduce the 700m metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the footwear industry annually. The collaboration will see the two companies coming together to innovate on manufacturing and supply chain processes in addition to exploring renewable material resources.
The goal is to create the lowest carbon footprint ever recorded for a sports performance shoe and in the process, unlock the opportunity to set a new industry standard in the fight against climate change.
In another surprising move, Allbirds recently announced it has added Emily Weiss, Founder of cult DTC beauty brand Glossier, and Mandy Fields, CEO of e.l.f Beauty, to its board of directors. This, the startup revealed, was a way to “gain the invaluable learnings Weiss and Fields bring with them from the beauty space’s unique knowledge of brand loyalty and consumer relationships.”
Adding: “Both bring world-class expertise from leading consumer brands; Emily has created a devoted community in Glossier, while Mandy is a veteran of multinational brands, focused on sustainable growth and financial discipline.”