Suit Contesting Allbirds’ Environmental Sustainability Statements Dismissed

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a case that alleges wool-based shoe company Allbirds Inc. made misleading statements about the sustainability of its products. 

In an August 2021 amended complaint, plaintiff Patricia Dwyer of New York claims the life cycle assessment tool used by Allbirds to estimate the carbon footprint of its products is inaccurate because it does not assess the environmental impact of wool production, including on water, eutrophication or land occupation. Had Allbirds included the carbon footprint of sheep farming in its calculations, the plaintiff claims the carbon footprint figures advertised for Allbirds’ products would be significantly higher. 

The complaint also takes issue with Allbird’s use of the Higg Material Sustainability Index, a standard developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to measure the environmental impact of apparel materials. The plaintiff criticizes the Higg Index for only addressing the impact of raw materials, and alleges that unnamed independent researchers have found it unsuitable for “public disclosure or comparative assertions.” The plaintiff also claims Allbirds’ statements about the welfare of the sheep it sources its wool from are misleading.

District Judge Cathy Seibel dismissed the plaintiff’s claims that Allbirds violated Sections 349 and 350 of the New York General Business Law, stating that while the plaintiff may have issues with the methodologies used by Allbirds’ life cycle assessment tool and the Higg Index, the company’s statements about how they calculate the environmental impact of a product are not misleading. 

“Plaintiff does not allege that a reasonable consumer would expect Defendant to use another method of calculation or would be misled by Defendant’s use of the LCA tool or the

Higg MSI,” Judge Seibel said in the opinion. “In advertising the Product’s carbon footprint calculations, Defendant describes the exact components of the calculation…and Plaintiff provides no facts suggesting that Defendant is not calculating the carbon footprint as advertised.”

In addition, Judge Seibel stated that the plaintiff failed to identify any misleading statements by Allbirds’ about the welfare of the sheep it sources wool from, but instead seems to take issue with the sheep industry as a whole. 

“The underlying evidence on which Plaintiff relies…does not describe any animal cruelty specific to Defendant or its products, and ‘allegations that the [wool] industry as a whole deceives consumers do not satisfy Plaintiff’s burden to allege that a specific advertisement or statement by Defendant would mislead a reasonable consumer as to the Product.’”

Judge Seibel also dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for breach of express warranty, fraud and unjust enrichment, and denied leave to amend. 

The plaintiff is represented by Sheehan & Associates PC.

The defendant is represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.