The company’s motto is “Be Human, Be Well, and Be Planet”, a harmonious ideal in line with the world of yoga from which the lululemon sportswear mega-brand began.
“We are deeply connected to ourselves, to each other and to our planet; each part elevates each other, ”the Canada-based company says on its sustainability website.
But now a climate change campaign is targeting lululemon, claiming that its reliance on coal-fired factories in Asia is inconsistent with its public branding.
So far 477 yoga teachers and more than 500 yoga students in 28 countries have signed an open letter asking lululemon to purchase its products from factories that use renewable energy.
“Burning coal to make ‘Hotty Hot’ hoodies and high-waisted pants is unacceptable,” says a yoga teacher.
“Pollution from manufacturing lululemon clothing is a threat to both human health and climate change,” writes another.
Among the yoga teachers who signed the letter are current and former ambassadors who helped the company grow to be a multi-billion dollar behemoth a year by conducting public classes inside Lululemon stores.
But it’s the contrast between the brand and the company’s ethics, and its use of coal that endangers life and drives the climate crisis, that has made it a prime target.
“They really stand out for a huge disconnect between what they say they like and what they do,” said Laura Kelly, campaign leader at Action Speaks Louder, who is co-hosting the campaign with North-based Stand.earth. America.
“Nearly half of the energy that powers the lululemon factories comes from coal. But it would be difficult to find a company that claims to be more ethical.
“Given lululemon’s influence on the market, it’s important that people who buy their clothes understand these two faces. The business was built by taking a basic approach to their marketing and this was grounded in the yoga community. “
The signatories of the open letter include yoga teachers from the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia. South Australian yoga teacher and current lululemon ambassador, Prasanna Djukanovic, is among them.
He said: “Yoga teachers and students are consciously taking sides with the planet. lululemon must lead the way in response to the climate crisis and reduce the damage their products are doing. “
Lululemon aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the facilities it owns and operates by 60% by 2030.
According to revelations made last year to CDP, an organization that allows companies to record details on climate targets, lululemon was responsible for the emission of 20,374 tons of CO2 equivalent through activities it could directly control.
But these were largely surpassed by the 381,797 tons of CO2e from the company’s supply chain, known as Scope 3 emissions.
The company has a goal of reducing these emissions per dollar of revenue by 60% by 2030, which means that while emissions per dollar may decline, if revenue increases, actual emissions may rise.
A company report on its social and environmental impact released this week said its emissions per dollar have increased 4% since 2018.
Earlier this month, the company posted expected net revenue of approximately $ 7.9 billion for this year with annual revenue growing by approximately 26%. The company says it aims to double revenue between 2021 and 2026.
The company told CDP that most of its suppliers in the fabric factories were in Taiwan and China “where electricity and energy are expensive and mostly fossil fuel based,” the company wrote.
“Raw material suppliers, in general, consume more energy than finished product suppliers due to the use of steam and hot water in dyeing processes,” the document reads.
The company, which directly employs 29,000 people and has 240,000 employees for its suppliers, told CDP that it has conducted pilot initiatives focused on energy efficiency and said that “there are also opportunities for our raw material suppliers to move from coal to natural gas, biomass and / or renewable electricity (eg solar on site). “
Good on You, an organization that evaluates clothing brands for their environmental and social impact, also says lululemon’s policies and practices are “not good enough.”
In 2019, the company launched an investigation after workers at a factory in Bangladesh said they were beaten, forced to work overtime and paid less than the price of a pair of leggings in a month.
In a statement, the company said it focuses on helping “create a clothing industry that is sustainable and addresses the serious implications of climate change through goals and strategies that include a rapid transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency”.
The company’s report released this week was a sign of the company’s transparency in achieving its goals, the statement said. The company powered its operations with 100% renewable energy and had reduced emissions by 82% in its operations.
The statement added: “We know that most of the impact is in scope 3 [greenhouse gas emissions]including industry supply chains, and we are committed to continuing to innovate throughout the supply chain and are actively working with industry partners to be part of the solution.
“As a member of the United Nations Fashion Charter for Climate Action and founding supporters of the Fashion Climate Fund led by the Apparel Impact Institute, we are working to accelerate collective climate action within our industry. . We are also members of working groups that engage with selected suppliers to phase out any direct use of coal, among other initiatives that drive the transition to renewable energy. “