We tested Allbirds and they failed. Here’s what happened.

With the rise of sustainable fashion there has been a corresponding rise in greenwashing, aka brands exaggerating their sustainability efforts. In this new world of eco-consciousness, how are you to tell which brands are actually sustainable?

We want you to know what’s really going on. Here’s what you need to know about the brand Allbirds. 

Allbirds

Allbirds is a shoe brand founded with a commitment to use more natural and eco-friendly materials. They’re also a B Corporation and have a commitment to disclose and reduce their CO2.

While they are obviously doing some things right, they failed our sustainable brand criteria. The primary reason is a complete lack of transparency regarding their manufacturing, maker well-being, and whether or not they pay fair wages. Let’s dive in.

How Allbirds Stacked Up

Using our sustainable brand criteria, powered by Remake, Allbirds scored 31 out of 100 points. Brands need 50 or more points to pass.

There are 5 categories that Remake’s criteria is based upon: transparency, maker well-being, environmental sustainability, sustainable fabrics, and leadership. Let’s review Allbirds’ performance in each of the 5 sections. 

1) Transparency

Allbirds scored a 0 out of 15 possible points in the transparency and traceability section. 

Their website does not disclose information on where its products are made, conditions within the factories, or employee wages. Without this information, customers are unsure of whether the brand practices fair-trade within their business. 

2) Maker Well-Being

A score of 0 out of 33 possible points was scored in the section regarding maker well-being. 

The same issue ensues as before: there is no information included on their website. Allbirds’ Code of Conduct is not publicly available, and we are unsure of how often the factories are assessed for fair working conditions. 

Allbirds may actually be meeting some of this criteria, but the information is not accessible to their customers. For brands that want to position themselves as ethical and sustainable, that’s a problem.

3) Environmental Sustainability

For environmental sustainability, Allbirds racked up 15 points out of the possible 33. 

The Allbirds website has a section committed to sustainability and outlines what the company is doing to lessen their environmental impact. Their plan is to eliminate their products’ carbon footprint entirely by 1) measuring the emissions through a life-cycle analysis, 2) reducing impact by using natural and recycled materials, and 3) offsetting carbon use.

Allbirds also has a partnership with Soles4Souls, which helps their shoes find new lives around the world. This reduces clothing waste entering the landfills and helps communities in need thrive. 

What cannot be found on Allbirds’ website are plans to reduce water usage in manufacturing and material waste entering the landfill.

4) Sustainable Fabrics

In the sustainable fabrics section, Allbirds scored perfectly: 14 out of 14! This is where the brand really shines.

There is an entire page on Allbirds’ website dedicated to the materials used in production. Raw materials such as wool, sugarcane, and tree fiber are used to make their shoes.

By using the luscious locks of merino sheep trimmings, Allbirds uses 60% less energy than typical synthetic shoe producers. They even work with organizations such as ZQ Merino to ensure the sheep are living comfortably. 

Sugarcane is used for the shoe soles at Allbirds. When it is processed at their factories, the biomass is extracted and used to power the mill and fertilize crops.

Eucalyptus trees offer natural fibers and a closed-loop process for fabric production. Compared to cotton and other materials, Allbirds’ tree fiber, TENCEL Lyocell, uses 95% less water and halves their carbon footprint. Allbirds also works with the Forest Stewardship Council to protect forests as well as the species that depend on them.

Allbirds uses recycled plastic bottles for producing shoe laces, recycled nylon for fabric durability, and recycled cardboard for their packaging.

5) Leadership

Allbirds scored 2 out of 5 possible points in the leadership section.

The brand earned points for their strong commitment to sustainable fibers and for disclosing the carbon emissions used to produce each shoe. In carbon transparency they are leaders.

Where their leadership could improve is a commitment to ethical manufacturing. That begins with transparency and a public commitment to pay living wages across their supply chain.

Isn’t Allbirds a B Corporation?

You may be wondering why we didn’t give Allbirds points for being a B Corporation. B Corps are measured on a scale of 0-200 and must reach a minimum score of 80 to be certified. Allbirds has a score of 89.4.

B Corporation status is not included in our criteria because the information is not transparent for each of B Corps five impact areas. A score is given without any insight as to why the brand received it.

While we support the B Corp movement, we have found neither a way nor a need to incorporate it into our sustainable brand criteria

Sustainable Brands

Looking for sustainable brands? Check out our thoroughly researched list of sustainable brands that meet and exceed Remake’s criteria. These brands are transparent, ensure fair working conditions, and push for more sustainable fabrics and manufacturing processes.

Next Steps

Do you love Allbirds? Let them know you’d like to see more transparency about how they manufacture their shoes and that you’d like to see proof that they pay their workers fairly.

Here are 4 ways to contact them:

We’d love to see Allbirds pass our criteria in the near future. Until then, which brands would you like us to research next?

*Featured image by designmilk.

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