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lululemon: Set the climate pace at the Paris Olympics

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Female high jumper training at the stadium in sunny day

In Summer 2024, the Paris Olympics and Paralympics will set the pace for the climate, promising to halve the carbon footprint of the Games compared to previous editions.1 Yet, lululemon, the world’s fourth-largest sportswear brand and the official outfitter of Team Canada, is bringing a legacy of fossil fuel reliance and skyrocketing emissions to the world’s biggest sporting stage.

Despite lululemon’s promises to avoid environmental harm and restore a healthy planet, including a pledge to reach net zero emissions in the coming decades, every product in their new Paris Olympics collection contains synthetic, oil-based materials — mostly polyester and nylon.2,3 What’s more, fossil fuels dominate the energy mix of lululemon’s textile supply chain, where coal is commonly burned to dye and process fabrics, leading to harmful greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.4 

With this year’s Team Canada kit, lululemon says it wanted to help athletes feel good and perform at their best, but the company needs to compete on climate action, too.5 In fact, over 100 climate-conscious athletes from around the world have called for lululemon to step up on climate action to protect the future of their sports.6

The solution for lululemon is clear. Here’s what we want to see the company do:   

  1. Publicly disclose more information about its supply chain, including energy consumption and environmental impacts in supplier countries.
  2. Set renewable energy and absolute emissions reduction targets, accompanied by a credible decarbonization strategy, ahead of 2030
  3. Provide financial and technical support to enable suppliers to invest in the green transition.

With the Olympics quickly approaching, lululemon’s Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Governance Committee has the power and responsibility to propel lululemon’s climate targets – and they need to hear from you

Take action today to email David Mussafer, Director of the Board and Chair of lululemon’s Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Governance Committee to call on the sportswear giant to go for gold on climate.

References
  1. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2024/03/paris-most-sustainable-olympics-2024/
  2. https://www.lululemon.co.uk/en-gb/c/community/about-us/our-sustainability
  3. https://shop.lululemon.com/en-ca/c/team-canada/_/N-8th
  4. https://speakslouder.org/report/be-planet-toxic-pollution-and-fossil-fuel-reliance-in-lululemons-supply-chain
  5. https://fashionunited.nz/news/fashion/lululemon-unveils-team-canadas-olympics-uniform/2024041731991
  6. https://speakslouder.org/press/100-professional-athletes-call-for-climate-action-from-lululemon/

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FAQS

What does Lululemon have to do with the Olympics?

In 2021, lululemon signed a deal with the Canadian Olympics Committee and Canadian Paralympics Committee to be a principal sponsor of Team Canada and the official outfitter of Team Canada Olympians and Paralmpians for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, 2024 Paris Summer Games, 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games and 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games.

Lululemon may be best known for its yoga mats and leggings, which is why thousands of people from the yoga community as well as influential yoga teachers have called on the yoga-inspired brand to take climate action. However, lululemon is now the world’s fourth-largest sportswear brand and is betting on the growth of new product categories like running, tennis, and golf to double its revenue by 2026. This year, the brand released a Lululemon x Team Canada collection for the Paris Olympics for customers in North America, which is made mostly from oil-based synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, and provides no information about where and how the products were manufactured.

In an open letter from 129 professional athletes, sportswear brands like lululemon must switch to 100% renewable energy in order to protect the future of sports — many of which these athletes compete in — from the threat of climate change, and to protect the wellbeing of athletes who rely on a healthy climate.

“Athletes are legendary for summoning the will to overcome huge obstacles, but they’ve never faced a tougher opponent than climate change. We support this campaign because the sportswear industry must step up to meet the challenge of reducing their emissions and investing in clean, green energy, and this includes Lululemon.” - Lewis Blaustein, Founder and CEO, EcoAthletes.

How is Lululemon’s production impacting the environment?

Lululemon claims to contribute to restoring a healthy environment and promoting community wellbeing through its products and actions. However, the results of our 6-month investigation into the company’s textile supply chain reveal a pattern of failure to prevent adverse environmental impacts including air pollution, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and significant dependence on fossil fuels, including coal. The findings revealed evidence of environmental harm, including:

  1. Where lululemon’s suppliers have set climate targets, most are not on track to meet them. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising, coal and other fossil fuel consumption remain high, and renewable energy represents a tiny proportion of energy use. 
  2. There are multiple penalties issued against environmental regulations throughout lululemon’s supply chain, including air pollution, water pollution, and waste treatment violations.
  3. At several of lululemon’s supplier sites, air and water pollution negatively impact nature and communities, as revealed in interviews with local residents, water pollution test results, and photo and video evidence.

As a result, we recommended that lululemon:

  1. Publicly disclose more information about its supply chain, including energy consumption and environmental impacts
  2. Set renewable energy and absolute emissions reduction targets, accompanied by a credible decarbonization strategy
  3. Provide financial and technical support to enable suppliers to invest in the green transition

Read the report to find out more.

How does Lululemon compare to other sportswear brands?

Lululemon is lagging behind key sportswear competitors, when it comes to climate performance, who are making positive strides towards transitioning the supply chain from fossil fuels to clean energy. 

For example, Nike’s supply chain renewable energy grew by 50% in between 2022-2023, reaching 20% of all energy sourced across Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing. In Indonesia, Nike’s suppliers have committed to purchase nearly 100% of renewable electricity by 2025, which will reduce total manufacturing emissions by approximately 20%. At Puma, 22% of Tier 1 and 2 suppliers are using renewable energy, towards an interim target of 25% renewable energy by 2025. From 2022-2023, Puma’s scope 3 emissions fell by 22%, towards a target of 33% absolute emissions reduction by 2030. 

In other categories lululemon competes in, such as outdoor gear, Patagonia has set an absolute emissions reduction target of 55% by 2030, in line with the latest climate science, while lululemon has only set an intensity-based target. Meanwhile, Vaude has achieved a 5% absolute reduction in emissions decoupled from a 13% increase in revenues. Other brands like Decathalon have been investing in power purchase agreements (PPAs) to power their manufacturing with renewable energy, while several outdoor retailers under the European Outdoor Group have been working on improving access to renewable energy in Taiwan towards their goal of reducing 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the fashion sector, H&M Group and Kering have made commitments to sourcing 100% renewable electricity in the supply chain by 2030. So what’s stopping lululemon from setting a similar target? According to NewClimateInstitute, lululemon’s renewable energy targets and procurement strategies are rated ‘shallow’ in terms of integrity, while Stand.earth’s Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard ranks Lululemon at the bottom of the pack’ for their reliance on fossil fuels, skyrocketing emissions and lack of renewable energy commitment. In a recent Bloomberg Green article, lululemon is called out for its 114% carbon footprint growth since 2018, compared with at least 11 other major brands that have managed to reduce their emissions by up to 39%.

Why should lululemon commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030?

The IPCC recommends that emissions across all sectors must be halved by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Meanwhile, nations agreed at COP28 to triple the capacity of renewable energy by 2030.

This is why 2030 is such an important date and why it should be the target year for lululemon to aim to transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy across its entire value chain. Apparel and textile manufacturing can be powered by renewable electricity using measures like rooftop solar panels and PPAs (power purchase agreements) from local wind and solar power, supported by financial investment from major companies like lululemon.

Ahead of 2030, it is critical for lululemon to set strong, time-bound interim targets for renewable energy in its supply chain and disclose financial support for suppliers in order to mobilize resources and address barriers to the green transition.

Find out more about the key solutions for decarbonizing the fashion industry.

Why is lululemon being investigated for greenwashing in Canada?

In February 2024, our partners at Stand.earth submitted a complaint to Canada’s Competition Bureau on the grounds that lululemon is misrepresenting its climate impacts through misleading sustainability claims. In May, the Competition Bureau opened an investigation into the company for alleged “false, misleading and/or unsubstantiated representations.” The results of the investigation have not yet been released.

The complaint was submitted because, in stark contrast to the company’s slogan, ‘Be Planet,’ lululemon’s impact report released last fall revealed another year of staggering growth in emissions —more than 100% since deploying the slogan. Meanwhile, its products are made from oil and fracked gas, in factories burning coal on site, while being delivered via air freight, meaning Lululemon is way off-track to meeting climate targets. 

How has lululemon responded to the campaign so far?

Since launching our campaign, there has been some progress in terms of more detailed sustainability reporting as well as statements from lululemon that in order to reduce emissions, “We need to drive energy efficiency and transition to renewable, clean sources across our supply chain.” 

NewClimate Insititute’s renewable electricity report also recognises Lululemon has recently indicated some promising measures to increase renewables in the supply chain, such as plans to phase out coal boilers and explore opportunities for onsite solar. Meanwhile, Stand.earth’s new Clean Energy Closeup recognises Lululemon’s recent growth in renewable electricity in its supply chain to 15% across Tier 1 and 2, although this disclosure lacks some key details.

We have also been regularly meeting and communicating with lululemon’s sustainability team about the campaign, who have shared details about the company’s sustainability strategy. But it’s too soon to give lululemon a pat on the back when there is no time-bound, public-facing target yet that we can hold them accountable for making progress towards.

We know that when people like you speak up for climate justice, big companies listen, because it threatens their bottom line. Notably, in its latest CDP disclosure lululemon reports that “We experience pressure from NGOs and this is likely to increase as the impacts of climate change intensify. While lululemon focuses on being a good steward of environmental and social issues, negative information associated with our reputation could significantly impact demand for our products.”

OUR REPORTS

 
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‘Be Planet’? Toxic pollution and fossil fuel reliance in lululemon’s supply chain

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