Allbirds: Decarbonizing Fashion
Allbirds is a footwear startup focused on simple design, comfort, and sustainable natural materials. The case describes the company's product development process that works with suppliers to develop natural materials including wool and sugarcane to substitute for conventional petroleum-based materials and leather. The case is set in 2021, when Allbirds was extending its product range into apparel, and expanding beyond its online store to open more retail store around the world. Allbirds was freely sharing its know-how and material innovations with its competitors to try to scale its efforts to decarbonize fashion, but was also keen to remain ahead and differentiated based on simple design, comfort, and sustainable natural materials. The case highlights the growing the environmental impact of the footwear industry, including from its use of leather and fossil-fuel-based materials, and its focus on shorter product lifespans.