Sustainable Business

Footwear startup Allbirds touts ESG focus as it files for IPO

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A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Aug 31 (Reuters) - Franklin Templeton-backed Allbirds said on Tuesday it has filed for a U.S. initial public offering, as the wool footwear maker looks to cash in on the growing global demand and investor interest for sustainable products.

In the filing, Allbirds said it hopes to help pioneer a framework to conduct the first-ever "sustainable public equity offering," a process the retailer set up with an advisory group that shows it meets environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.

Allbirds said that as part of its IPO process sustainability ratings firm ISS ESG assessed whether it met the criteria for a sustainable public equity offering.

The footwear company set up the process with an advisory council hosted by sustainable business organization BSR, one of its investors and ESG ratings agencies.

Other sustainability-focused startups that recently tapped into capital markets include Hollywood star Jessica Alba's Honest Co (HNST.O) and Oprah Winfrey-backed Oatly Group AB (OTLY.O). Plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods is looking at a number of ways to go public, Reuters reported in April.

Allbirds is also a certified B corp and public benefit corporation, which allow its board to balance generating returns for shareholders and conserving the environment.

Founded by co-Chief Executive Officers Joseph Zwillinger and Timothy Brown, a former New Zealand soccer player, Allbirds is known for the use of sustainable materials in its products.

Brown researched and tinkered with the properties of merino wool and eventually teamed up with Zwillinger to craft a fabric made specifically for footwear.

Allbirds, whose backers include Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, also uses a plant-based alternative to leather for its shoes. It has also partnered with Adidas to create a range of sustainable sneakers.

The company reported a more than 25% jump in net revenue for the first six months of 2021, while net loss widened to $21.1 million during the period.

Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and BofA Securities are lead underwriters on the offering.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Noor Zainab Hussain and Sohini Podder in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Ramakrishnan M. and Mark Porter

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