The two faces of Lululemon
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.