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Allbirds Is About to Get Into Plant Leather — Here’s What That Means & Why You Should Care

Allbirds is upping the ante on sustainable innovations.

The eco-friendly shoe brand announced today that it has made a $2 million investment in Natural Fiber Welding Inc., a material innovation firm, to bring what it describes as the world’s first “100% natural plant-based leather alternative” to Allbirds’ suite of open-source eco-materials.

The move marks the first investment of its kind for Allbirds, the New Zealand-born brand best known for its classic sneakers made from natural materials.

“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” said Joey Zwillinger, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, in a release. “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.”

According to the companies, Allbirds’ plant leather is made with vegetable oil, natural rubber and other bio-ingredients, meaning it has as much as ​“40 times less carbon impact” than leather​ and “17 times less carbon” than synthetic leather made from plastic.

“Humanity’s dependence on plastic and other petroleum-based products has created a scarcity mindset that is unsustainable both for everyone’s quality of life and the future of this planet. A new era, one of abundance, will come from the creation of technologies based on sustainable and regenerative methods,” said Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding. “At NFW, we have developed technologies like Mirum that rely on plentiful natural materials, not petroleum and plastic. We’re proud to partner with a brand helping to lead the charge into the next era. By taking responsibility over their supply chain and the products they source, Allbirds continues to set an example for eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to give their customers the quality and performance they expect.”

Allbirds’ investments in NFW marks just the latest move for the brand — which closed a Series E funding round of $100 million this past October — as it seeks to promote and expand its message around climate-conscious businesses, including prioritizing collaboration over competition and accelerating the demand for green technology.

The brand, a climate-neutral certified B Corp, in October launched its first apparel collection, with four pieces that were each labeled with its specific carbon footprint. In November, for the all-important retail catalyst of Black Friday, the company went against the grain and raised prices across its collection by $1, donating the proceeds from the price hike to Fridays for Future, the international climate strike movement that was founded by young activist Greta Thunberg in 2018.

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