Fan-favorite footwear brand Allbirds has always led by example. The New Zealand-American company developed its first plastic-free “Plant Leather” leather alternative (coming later this year), as well as sugarcane “SweetFoam” shoe soles—and they made the magic recipe for sugarcane soles publicly available to other brands. (UGG’s new Plant Power collection uses sugarcane foam soles, as does Timberland’s GreenStride line.)
The company labels every product with its carbon footprint, and is spearheading a movement to get other brands to do the same. In its latest push to encourage sustainability in the fashion industry, Allbirds has made its proprietary Carbon Footprint calculator and accompanying resources available to other brands to use and apply to their own products.
“If we want to continue pushing fashion toward a more sustainable future, we need brands to take responsibility for what they share with consumers,” Allbirds co-CEO and co-founder, Joey Zwillinger, said in a statement. “Having a key, universal identifier like Carbon Footprint to evaluate sustainability claims and force accountability from businesses is critical to drowning out the noise.”
The open-sourced resources include Allbirds’ signature life-cycle assessment (LCA) tool, a helpful user manual for the LCA tool, and its signature Carbon Footprint labels, which give both broad totals as well as emissions information broken down by category (like a nutritional label).
All of these tools are available to download straight from Allbirds’ website, although don’t expect much of it to make sense at a glance. Calculating carbon emissions is often more complicated than tracking other types of pollution, and Allbirds partnered with third-party environmental consulting firm Clean Agency to make it happen.
The resulting massive spreadsheet that is the LCA tool models products’ “cradle-to-grave” carbon footprints through five lifecycle stages: materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, and end of life. Click through the spreadsheet yourself, and it’s no wonder Allbirds created a user manual to help guide companies through the highly complex process. Luckily, the manual offers details and explanations for how companies can populate the spreadsheet, including tips on gathering product primary data and performing the calculations.
Allbirds hopes other brands will use the tool and publicize their results with Carbon Footprint labels, which they’ve also made open-source. “The last step is the easiest, but also the most important,” Allbirds states on the website. “Our Carbon Footprint labels are what keep us accountable and our customers informed.”
In keeping with this push for accountability, Allbirds has also authored a petition on Change.org. Echoing the language of their LCA spreadsheet, the petition—called “Tell the Fashion Industry We Need Carbon Footprint Labels!”—demands universal labels “to show how much carbon emission went into creating each product, from materials, to manufacturing, to transportation and end of life.”
“We need industry accountability for true climate action,” the document reads. “And now you have the tools to be transparent on your pollution, and then act to reduce it!”
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