You’ve heard it all before — promises to be better by 2050; pledges to ditch plastic in a decade…or maybe three; platitudes about our duty to protect the planet.
Since Allbirds launched in 2016, interest in sustainable fashion has grown 10x, and nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. This rapid rise in consumer interest has meant that brands quickly need to retrofit their businesses for sustainability or risk losing customers.
Today, companies commit first, and work out the details later. We reward sweeping ambition over meticulous planning. This means that most brands don’t actually know how to achieve pledges when they make them. Climate commitments end up being more of an environmental “I owe you” than a pathway to meaningful progress.
My team reviews A LOT of sustainability commitments. A couple years ago, our Slack channel would light up with announcements from other brands once a month, and now we’re sharing pledges from brands multiple times a day. We’ve spent a lot of time mining for details (or lack thereof) in these plans, and were determined to make sure our plan coupled bold ambition with a detailed roadmap.
The result is the Allbirds Flight Plan: ten of the most ambitious, science-based sustainability targets in the footwear and apparel industry. These individual targets ladder up to our overarching climate goals — we will cut our per product carbon footprint in half by 2025*, and drive it to less than 1 kg CO2e by 2030. This is as close to truly zero emissions as we can get, before the use of offsets. And we will continue to be 100% carbon neutral, as we have been since 2019. You can check them all out, including additional details on other important sustainability topics like Fair Labor, and Traceability, on our revamped Sustainability page.
So what makes our Flight Plan so different? Here are a few key design principles that guided our process:
- Long term ambition with near term targets
Our north star is to “reverse climate change through better business.” While the scientific community is anchored on 2030 and 2050, we need near term milestones to hold us accountable to progress. We set a 2030 target and broke down the steps we have to take over the next five years to reach our ultimate goals.
- “Cradle to Grave” accountability
Our 2025 and 2030 climate targets are fully inclusive of scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions, including emissions from customer use and end of life. Sure, it would be easier to say that once our products get into consumers’ hands we’re no longer responsible for their emissions, but rarely does “easy” equal “better.”
- Plan first, targets second
Rather than first announcing a climate target and then figuring out how we might achieve it, we let our detailed reduction roadmap inform our commitments. To us, leadership means having ambitious targets that we are confident we can achieve.
- Absolute reductions, while growing our business
We are only 5 years old and our business is still growing rapidly. Which means we have to work even harder to reduce overall emissions. While you’ll hear us talk most about our per product carbon footprint (we believe the simplest way to think about it), we ensured that these per product targets led to a 42% reduction in our absolute emissions by 2030 against a 2020 baseline across scopes 1, 2, and 3.
- Inclusive, stakeholder-based process
We didn’t come up with these targets all on our own. We started and ended with feedback from core stakeholders in our business, including customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and NGOs. Rather than pushing targets on our partners, we wanted them to feel engaged in shaping them.
Sharing this level of detail with you is, frankly, a little risky, because it allows you to hold us accountable — not to vague, far off commitments, but to very specific actions and near term progress. Achieving our goals will require discipline within our own organization, as well as huge change in the world. There’s a real possibility we may miss some of them, and if we do, you will be the first to know.
But the urgency of the climate crisis is an asset. It gives us permission to prioritize progress over perfection. Rather than wasting precious time searching for a single “theoretical best” option, we will take action on the many “good enough” options available right now.
We often place ourselves at the end of a long history of environmental decline, but it might also be the beginning of a sustainable revolution. With a slight reframe, we have all the ingredients of a great story — one that I am thrilled to be a part of. The Allbirds Flight Plan gives us a roadmap to write a better ending.
*Reduction measured against a baseline of what our emissions would be in 2025 without any further action to limit emissions