Wednesday, September 14, 2022: Lululemon’s reliance on fossil fuels exacerbates the climate crisis. A group of concerned yoga teachers have joined forces to demand change.

Over 500 yoga teachers from 30 countries have signed an open letter to Lululemon, urging the athleisure giant to publicly commit to quit coal and transition to 100 percent renewable wind and solar power across its supply chain.  

Lululemon’s marketing claims its clothes are ‘designed by yogis’ and aims for all products to be designed sustainably.  However, almost half of the energy powering Lululemon factories comes from burning coal, the largest driver of the climate crisis

“Almost half of the energy which powers Lululemon factories comes from coal,” said Action Speaks Louder Head of Campaigns Laura Kelly, “Lululemon will tell you not to worry about any of this, because they have a plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. But unfortunately, this is another marketing moment where the gap between appearance and reality bites.”

Within the letter, the yoga leaders state ‘Lululemon’s reliance on coal as a source of energy is extremely harmful to people and the environment, particularly in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, where its products are made’ and call for the company to ‘ immediately phase out coal and source 100 percent renewable energy such as solar and wind from your factories and across your supply chain.

According to Living Yoga’s Sierra Hollister, herself a former Lululemon ambassador, “Lululemon is uniquely positioned to make good on their core value “taking personal responsibility” and also move industry standards by committing to quit coal and utilize renewable energy in their manufacturing plants. With the climate crisis threatening every aspect of life on earth, it is more important than ever for each of us to do everything in our power to turn the wheel and step away from business as usual – which is literally killing us.” 

Fossil fuels like coal cause dangerous climate change and air pollution that is responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world each year. Nearly one in five premature deaths globally are attributed to air pollution that’s caused by fossil fuels, according to a 2018 Harvard study. 

Lululemon claims to have an emissions reduction target of 60 per cent, but if you check the details you’ll find a ‘lulu-loophole’. The commitment is an ‘intensity-based target’ and based on Lululemon’s plans to double revenue by 2026, will actually allow the company’s overall emissions to increase.

The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis, with greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) estimated by Stand.Earth to be between 5-10% of the global total, exceeding both the aviation and shipping sectors, with projections of a further 30% growth in emissions by 2030.

“Lululemon has built one of the world’s fastest growing apparel brands by promoting personal well-being that can be achieved through yoga. Yoga leaders around the world are saying very clearly back to Lululemon: get serious about protecting the well-being of both people and planet by shifting its factories off coal, investing in renewable energy, and advocating for the rapid transition from coal to renewables in countries where its factories are located,” said Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth. 

The yoga leaders’ letter is supported by environmental organisation Stand.Earth and corporate campaign group, Action Speaks Louder.

For yoga practitioners and teachers who want to take action ​​

https://speakslouder.org/petition/open-letter-lululemon/

Learn more about Stand.earth’s Fossil Free Fashion Campaign at lulucoal.com.

The Problem with Filthy Fashion   

2021 Filthy Fashion Climate Scorecard

Fossil-Free Fashion Scorecard: lululemon  

Breathe in, breathe out… Lululemon’s coal pollution   

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Media contacts: 

James Lorenz (Australia) +61 (0) 400 376021 | james@speakslouder.org

Emily Pomilio, Erikson Communication Group | emily@eriksongroup.com 

Samsung, one of the largest technology companies in the world, is getting an increasing amount of bad press over its reliance on fossil fuels and its refusal to prioritise renewable energy alternatives like solar and wind to power its electricity-hungry manufacturing bases.

The tech giant claims it is on a ‘journey towards a sustainable future, but its rudderless fossil fuel-driven practices show otherwise. 

To achieve carbon neutrality, energy efficiency is the way forward.

Samsung Electronics is Korea Inc. 

Samsung Electronics not only represents Korea Inc. through its prominent role in the national economy and its huge global presence and global operations, but it also uses up an enormous amount of the country’s electricity to power its huge manufacturing hubs and supply chain.. According to Greenpeace, in 2019, Samsung Electronics’s electricity consumption was equivalent to the needs of more than 4 million South Korean households. Coal and gas largely meet the company’s total electricity consumption.

Rely on Renewable Energy Sources Instead of Fossil Fuels

Given that South Korea has the second largest coal power emissions per capita among the world’s major economies, Samsung customers would likely want to know why they rely on old, polluting technology and why not on renewable energy sources, which are good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for climate change.

The recent Financial Times and Bloomberg coverage highlights how this serious emissions problem is not going unnoticed by its shareholders. The Netherlands-based pension fund, APG, is urging Samsung to step up and exert pressure on the South Korean government to expand the country’s renewable energy market, which has pitifully low amounts of solar and wind. The country’s solar and wind power only generate 4.7% of its electricity, less than half of the world’s average, and its neighbouring countries of China and Japan. Securing renewable energy sources should be a priority. 

Supercharging these two clean electricity sources is vital to saving the planet/ Along with battery storage, they must create the backbone of a modern electricity system, as the United Nations Secretary-General recently stressed.  

While Samsung Electronics uses more electricity than the entire country’s solar and wind sectors, it plays no positive role in helping to push its home country to go greener because it has no short or long term climate plan or renewable energy goals, as a shareholder recently pointed out in the FT.

Lee Jae-yong on Parole 

The de facto leader of Samsung is Lee Jae-yong, who has been released from prison following embezzlement and bribery charges. He remains highly influential in policy-maker circles. There has reportedly been an expectation among investors that on his release, he would seek to turn the company’s fortunes around and make new bold commitments on clean energy, but this has not materialised, and rival companies are stepping into this void. 

Laggard Status 

This lack of action on renewables is hard to understand as the company and country’s future depends on its ability to remain at the cutting edge of technology. 

The country already suffers under blankets of air pollution and will be increasingly affected by deadly heatwaves, like in 2018, which caused dozens of deaths. 

The world watches Samsung versus Apple in the global technology battle, which Samsung seems to be determined to lose. Since 2018, Apple claims it sources 100% renewable electricity, with its facilities procuring 90% of this directly from ‘Apple-created’ renewables projects. This is compared to Samsung, whose greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.

Another rival, the Taiwanese semiconductor chipmaker TSMC has announced plans to power its operations on renewables, including offshore and onshore wind farms, showing how this manufacturing can be powered on clean energy. 

Out of Step 

Samsung remains out of step with its rivals, casting doubt over Lee Jae-yong’s leadership. While Samsung seems to be lost in its promised journey towards sustainability, we need to keep the pressure on. 

 

The environmental impact of the fashion industry often flies under the radar. However, a closer look reveals that the net-zero commitments of the global fashion industry are lagging behind those of other sectors. The lack of decarbonisation progress in the industry threatens to slow down the world’s net-zero journey. Furthermore, greenwashing is becoming more and more common among many famous brands, while others are trying to convince the public that business growth and environmental friendliness are mutually exclusive. The few shining examples in the niche are not enough to change the status quo. The keys to change are regulatory and public pressure.

The Fashion Industry’s Environmental Impact

The fashion industry is responsible for 2.1 gigatonnes in humanity’s carbon emissions in 2018. This is close to 4% of all global emissions, and it makes up about 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions. To put that into perspective, it is equivalent to the carbon emissions of some of the biggest economies globally, including the UK, France, and Germany combined.

Environmental Cost of Fashion Production

While the environmental cost of fashion production is already massive, fashion sector emissions will continue to grow. If this is allowed to continue, these emissions will possibly rise to 1.588 gigatonnes by 2030.

Projected GHG Emissions for the Apparel Sector, 2019–2030, Source: World Resource Institute

The environmental impact of the fashion industry affects more than just the climate. Studies have found that synthetic fibres account for 35% of marine microplastic pollution. However, they also take a toll on terrestrial pollution, with 176,500 metric tonnes of polyester and nylon being released annually onto land. Currently, synthetic fibres produced from crude oil and natural gas account for 69% of the material input for clothing production worldwide. Furthermore, the annual CO2 emissions from polyester production today equal the yearly emissions of 180 coal-fired power plants.

The Fashion Industry’s Environmental Impact in Asia

It is no secret that most fashion brands produce their products in emerging Asian economies. The latest data shows that the top five apparel exporters by value are China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Germany and India.

China is responsible for producing 65% of the world’s clothes. Furthermore, apparel accounts for over 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports, while Southeast Asia is the fastest-growing apparel hub globally. The result is massive textile waste and the use of fertilizers for cotton production.

However, out of the 57 Asian companies from the textiles, apparel, footwear and luxury goods industries with near-term science-based climate commitments, the targets of just eight of them align with a 1.5°C pathway.

Why Does the Problem Exist?

First, the current net-zero pledges of the global industry and fast fashion brands are insufficient and incomplete. There are a limited number of targets covering Scope 3 emissions, which hold the highest share in companies’ emissions. Furthermore, many brands do not even bother to disclose this information in their environmental reports.

Scope 3 Emissions Dominate the Breakdown of Emissions for a Selection of Companies with Approved SBTs.
Source: World Resource Institute

Even though over 70% of the industry’s emissions originate from raw material production and processing, just 47% of brands disclose their manufacturing facilities. Only 27% disclose their processing plants, and just 11% list their raw materials suppliers.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2021 ranks 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers. Only 26% have science-based targets, and only 17% disclose Scope 3 emissions from raw materials.

Meanwhile, the most troubling observation is that as much as 59% of green commitments by fashion industry companies are merely greenwashing.

Prada, Hugo Boss and Mammut Sports – The Good and the Bad Examples

Stand Earth’s Fossil-free Fashion Scorecard evaluates brands’ climate commitments, reliance on renewable energy, low-carbon materials, shipping practices and advocacy. It states that the best-performing company globally is Mammut Sports. Its sector-leading commitments include halving its emissions, switching to renewable energy across its supply chain and transitioning to zero-emission shipping vessels by 2030. n the other end of the spectrum are companies like Primark and Under Armour and luxury brands like PradaLVMHHugo Boss, and Armani.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2021 has singled out brands like OVS, H&M, The North Face and Timberland as the best-performing ones. Apparel producers like Mexx, Pepe Jeans, Tom Ford, Max Mara and Quicksilver are at the bottom. Companies like Adidas, Reebok, Bershka and Zara have taken a significant hit to their rankings in 2021.

Fashion Transparency Index 2021 Quick Findings. Source: Fashion Revolution


Nike and Adidas are not Transparent

When it comes to brand transparency, fossil-fuel synthetics use and commitments to phase them out, the Changing Markets report has found no clear front-runners. At the bottom of the chart are companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, the North Face, Timberland, Primark and more.

What Can the Fashion Industry Do to Reduce Its Environmental Impact?

The spotlight for decarbonisation often falls on heavy industry and hard-to-abate sectors, while the fashion industry’s environmental impact is undervalued. Sustainable fashion is the need of the hour.

Changing Markets concludes that the fashion brands are knee-deep in fossil fuels.For a change to happen, greenwashing practices must end. In the era of the conscious consumer and growing competition, greenwashing can result in massive reputational and financial risks as well as the loss of consumer confidence.

In terms of concrete steps, the World Resource Institute recommends six measures that collectively can ensure that the industry remains in line with a 45% reduction pathway by 2030.

Key Interventions for Reducing Emissions towards Net Zero, Source: World Resource Institute

Furthermore, the industry as a whole should be looking to abandon the unsustainable fast-fashion model and move towards circular business processes, enabling higher durability of garments, extended warranties and the promotion of reuse. Patagonia is a great example of this. Companies should also commit to ambitious and comprehensive climate targets, reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and focus on cutting Scope 3 emissions. In order to decarbonise, the fashion industry needs USD 1 trillion by 2050.

Financing Mix Across Solution Categories. Source: Fashion for Good

Understandably, relying on the industry’s inner motivation to embrace such a significant restructure is too idealistic. Regulators should introduce laws that will make it mandatory for companies to identify, prevent and account for ESG risks. Oversight authorities and industry bodies should also hold fashion brands accountable for their green claims.

If these measures fail, the best weapon is to tackle the sector’s price sensitivity. Any additional carbon tax for high-emissions products will significantly affect profits, urging companies to act. Furthermore, any form of industry support should also be conditional and based upon companies’ climate-related performance.

What’s Next For the Fashion Industry?

The sector is highly fragmented. There are no companies that we can point fingers at and put the blame on. As a result, change can only result from a collective effort. Collaboration and collective action are critical for creating effective and meaningful solutions. Fortunately, if there is any sector where public pressure can make the biggest difference, it is the fashion industry.  

This post was originally published on Energy Tracker Asia

“A constant that has never wavered is our desire to empower people to reach their full potential through providing the right tools and resources, and encouraging a culture of leadership, goal setting and personal responsibility.”

-Lululemon

“Increased scrutiny from investors and others regarding our environmental, social, governance, or sustainability responsibilities could result in additional costs or risks and adversely impact our reputation, employee retention, and willingness of customers and suppliers to do business with us.”

-Also Lululemon

Action Speaks Louder exists to hold big companies accountable to their climate change commitments. Enter the well known, multi-billion dollar yoga and sports brand, Lululemon. This company claims to make clothes ‘designed by yogis’. If you’ve ever bought yoga clothes from them, and I confess I have, you might have felt good about it. Substantially more out of pocket, but good. Because their marketing is all about ethics and community; they claim to be connected and by extension to connect you, to a community of yogis, mindfulness practitioners, sporting leaders and health and wellness professionals.

But as the second quote above demonstrates, which was taken from their 2021 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Lululemon fear scrutiny. Why? Why, if they are a community of wellness experts, with products designed by yogis and a culture of leadership and personal responsibility, does Lululemon fear scrutiny?

The truth is that Lululemon fear scrutiny because they make their clothing with the toxic fossil fuels that are killing millions of people around the world. And I’m not just talking about the synthetic fabrics that feature highly in their range and are made from petroleum. I’m talking about the fact that 48% of the energy that powers Lululemon factories comes from coal. Coal is a toxic fossil fuel that is causing dangerous climate change and deadly air pollution. In 2018, more than 8 million people died from fossil fuel pollution, according to Harvard University. And children are the most vulnerable to climate change and the resulting increase in malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

How is it possible that a company with products ‘designed by yogis’ could be directly contributing to these deaths?

Lululemon will tell you not to worry about any of this, because they have a plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. But unfortunately, this is another marketing moment where the gap between appearance and reality bites.

Lululemon have something called an ‘intensity-based’ target, which means that while the percentage of fossil fuels they use per product will decrease, the overall amount of fossil fuels they use will increase, because of dramatic increases in production. This ‘Lulu-loophole’ means the company can say they are ‘reducing’ dangerous emissions, while their actual emissions increase.

I’ve practiced Hatha and Iyengar yoga for over 15 years. I still consider myself a beginner, but I know the genuine love I feel for my teachers – their wisdom, generosity and ethic of care for all of their students. There’s no way that if the yoga community knew the harm that Lululemon are doing to the world, that they would support it. I won’t, because any company increasing its fossil fuel use in the face of dangerous climate change is hurting the people I love.

I’ve had enough of companies who say one thing but do another. Will you help? Because you actually can – if enough people contact Lululemon and let them know they expect better, the company will act to protect their reputation – they’ve already confessed the fear that they will have to. And the solution is as simple as Lululemon committing to use clean, wind and solar energy, instead of dirty fossil fuels, to make their products.

Click here to sign our petition to Lululemon:

If you’re a yoga teacher, please email us at action[at]speakslouder.org to join our open letter to Lululemon from the yoga community asking them to practice the ethics of care and community their marketing describes.

Namaste, Laura.