Allbirds Stomps Out Claim to Being First “Sustainable” IPO

Trendy shoemaker Allbirds, whose nondescript but uber-comfortable products are the tech bro footwear of choice, says it’s fervently committed to sustainability… just not as much as it first promised.

Under pressure from the SEC and environmental critics, the company quietly dropped a claim that it would be the first “sustainable” IPO before it started trading last week.

Other Shoe Drops

Back in August, Allbirds said in its IPO filings that it would pursue a “sustainable public equity offering” to meet environmental, sustainability, and governance standards. But in the weeks that followed, it kept filing updates to its IPO prospectus that weakened the promise until the sustainable “offering” was dropped in favor of mushier “sustainability principles and objectives.”

But that didn’t stop Allbirds from strolling down the road of successful consumer-focused IPOs decked out in comfy wool sneakers (restaurant tech provider Toast, clothes rental company Rent the Runway, and eyewear firm Warby Parker have also gone public this year):

  • Allbirds sold more shares than it expected and rose 7.5% last week after investor demand surged.
  • Allbirds was valued at $1.7 billion last year, and now has a $3.75 billion market cap with about 90% of its $219 million in 2020 revenue coming from digital sales.

Going, Going… Gone: Allbirds claims one pair of its wool- and eucalyptus-based shoes has 30% less carbon impact than those of conventional sneaker rivals. But advocacy groups — namely PETA— say Allbirds’ calculations leave out half of its wool’s environmental impact by omitting effects on water, land occupation, and methane emissions.

Back in August, Allbirds’ IPO filings stated that its “sustainable public equity offering” would guarantee the company meets several environmental, sustainability, and governance standards. But in the weeks that followed, it kept filing updates to its prospectus weakening the promise, until the guarantee was ultimately dropped in lieu of the mushier “sustainability principles and objectives.”

PETA Prodding: The SEC also eased rules last week that will make it easier for shareholders to table environmental petitions at annual meetings. Allbirds will no doubt be elated to know that PETA then announced it had become one of the company’s first shareholders.

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