Founded in 1988, Canadian activewear brand lululemon sells clothing, accessories and equipment catering to various sports and leisure activities — from yoga, to running and training, to lounging. They operate 600 stores and have 29,000 employees across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australasia.
In 2022, lululemon’s net revenue was 8.1 billion USD. By 2026, they plan to increase their revenue to 12.5 billion USD, through a three-pronged strategy that increases menswear sales, international sales and digital sales.
lululemon does not own the suppliers that produce their products. The brand sources from 135 facilities across Tier 1 (the product assembly stage where the final garment is sewn together) and Tier 2 (the material production stage where the fabric is finished and dyed). The majority of these facilities are in Asia, with the main production occurring in Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
Campaign Launch, June 2022
We launched a petition asking lululemon’s CEO Calvin McDonald to set an absolute emissions reduction target and switch to renewable energy across lululemon’s supply chain.
Practice what you preach: Open letter from the yoga community, September 2022
Alongside leading yoga instructors around the world and our partner Stand.earth, we wrote an open letter to lululemon , where thousands of yoga teachers — including current and former lululemon ambassadors — and yoga students have called on the brand to live up to its values.
Climate change is threatening the future of sport: Letter from 100+ professional athletes, August 2023
In collaboration with EcoAthletes, we launched an open letter signed by over a hundred professional athletes around the world, calling on lululemon to play forward and become a leader in climate action by making a commitment to 100% renewable energy.
lululemon makes billions promoting itself as a brand that supports health, well-being and sustainability. Yet, their emissions have increased significantly every year, reaching a massive 1.2 million metric tonnes of cO2 in 2022 — a 22% increase from 2021.
99.7% of lululemon’s greenhouse gas emissions are in Scope 3 — in other words, the factories and facilities they source from and hire to make their products. The majority of these emissions are associated with textile production: the processing of the fabrics used to make their clothing.
In spite of this, lululemon has only made a commitment to 100% renewable energy in their own operations — their stores, offices and warehouses — ignoring the outsized impact of their supply chain.
Most of their suppliers are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, with only 15% of electricity used by their Tier 1 and 2 suppliers reportedly coming from renewable sources.
lululemon has only committed to a 60% intensity-based reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chain by 2030. This means that as the brand continues to grow, emissions could continue to rise. Meanwhile, they have made a commitment to a 60% absolute emissions reduction in their own operations — which means a reduction independent of brand growth.
In lululemon’s latest impact report, the brand recognises that in order to reduce emissions, “We need to drive energy efficiency and transition to renewable, clean sources across our supply chain.” This is a positive sign that the brand is starting to take sustainability seriously behind-the-scenes. But until we see emissions decrease and renewable energy increase, it’s too soon to give lululemon a pat on the back.
We need to see lululemon’s new climate plan include a commitment to 100% renewable energy across the supply chain by 2030, backed up by a credible roadmap that focuses on high quality solar and wind from onsite generation and PPAs.
Through the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, lululemon has committed to phasing out coal from its supply chain by 2030, and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, the brand lacks transparency on reporting its progress towards these goals and instead, exaggerates the impact of small sustainability initiatives, such as using recycled materials in a limited number of products.
Instead, lululemon regularly engages in greenwashing by overexaggerating the impact of certain sustainability initiatives, such as using a small proportion of recycled materials in a limited number of products.
lululemon must commit to 100% renewable energy — wind and solar — in its supply chain by 2030.
Furthermore, they must update their emissions reduction targets by adopting an absolute (rather than intensity-based) target, with the goal of deep decarbonization of lululemon’s entire supply chain.
In order to achieve this, lululemon should invest in on-site PPAs (power purchase agreements) for all suppliers. In markets where direct CPPAs (corporate power purchase agreements) are available, they should procure the highest available wind and solar power, creating local and additional quality renewable energy capacity. Where sourcing countries do not have supportive renewable energy policies, lululemon should engage in targeted climate policy advocacy that promotes high quality wind and solar energy supply.
lululemon must also immediately phase out coal from its supply chain, particularly at the textile production stage. Rather than switching to environmentally damaging coal alternatives like gas and biomass, they should invest in electric boilers, industrial heat pumps, and dry processing technologies.
Additionally, lululemon needs to help its suppliers to transition to renewable energy through financial and technical support, which can be achieved through developing a Supplier Clean Energy Fund and Procurement Policy.
Overall, lululemon must be transparent in reporting its supply chain emissions using locations-based accounting, and disclose detailed information about its energy mix and decarbonization strategy.
Why it matters
The fashion industry contributes roughly 1.8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so it is a crucial sector for decarbonizing the global economy.
If we want to limit global warming to 1.5ºC and avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, annual renewable power must triple by 2030. A significant proportion of this will need to be driven by corporate procurement.
lululemon is in a unique leadership position to create positive change in the industry. It has significant financial influence amongst its large global supply chain.
This means that the brand is able to make strong demands of its suppliers and the governments of the countries it exports from, and it is well-placed to provide financial support and investment to transition to clean energy.
lululemon is the 5th biggest sportswear brand in the world and the 7th largest apparel brand by market capitalization. This means that amongst its peers, lululemon has the opportunity to raise the bar on sustainable supply chains, and collaborate with other powerful stakeholders to achieve its climate goals.
And finally, lululemon’s branding positions it as a leader in health and well-being, which is at odds with its reliance on fossil fuels. The brand has an important opportunity to align its business model with its core values and become a leader in sustainability, influencing others in the space to do the same.