Is Lululemon as sustainable as it says it is?

Lululemon is known for touting its efforts toward sustainable fashion, with an ethos of "Be human. Be well. Be planet."

Is Lululemon as sustainable as it says it is?
The logo for Lululemon Athletica is seen at a store in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Canadian-American athleisure brand Lululemon was established in 1998 and is now a global name particularly popular in the yoga community. Lululemon is known for touting its efforts toward sustainable fashion, with an ethos of "Be human. Be well. Be planet." But lately, it's been facing some public pressure about its commitment to climate change. Some say the company's supply chain is problematic, and its image is really all a big dose of greenwashing.

The thing is, many of Lululemon's suppliers in places like Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Cambodia still run their factories on coal. On top of that, a lot of the merch is made from polyester, which comes from petroleum. So, since January, more than 7,000 yoga instructors and students across more than 30 countries have signed a petition circulated by and Actions Speak Louder calling for Lululemon to convert its supply chain to 100% renewable energy.

Then, earlier this month, filed a complaint with Canada's competition regulator to investigate Lululemon's alleged greenwashing. The complaint said that even though the yoga-wear company said it would work to reduce its emissions, a 2022 impact report showed its indirect emissions actually increased that year.

"We think in this case, Lululemon is telling its customers a bunch of things about the products, that they are environmentally friendly, climate-friendly, restorative to the Earth — and that none of those things are true," said Todd Paglia, executive director of, to CBC News.

Lululemon has grown exponentially over the last few years, doubling its yearly net revenues between 2018 and 2022 to US$8.1 billion and increasing its number of stores by nearly 50%. But this growth is also contributing to the company's carbon footprint. Maxine Bedat, director of the think tank New Standard Institute, said to Bloomberg, "It's very basic, if product creation is going up, emissions will grow."

Although a spokesperson said, "Lululemon is focused on helping to create a garment industry that is more sustainable," they also acknowledged that most of the company's emissions come from its supply chain. To break that down, Lululemon has made steps to minimize some of its direct and indirect emissions, called Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, but those only make up about 5% of its total emissions, according to Inside Climate News.

The company's Climate Change 2021 report says, "The majority of our emissions are scope 3, generated from raw materials, manufacturing, and product transportation."

Campaign organizers argue that if Lululemon took steps to use renewable energy, other fashion brands could follow suit. But Veronica Bates Kassatly, an independent sustainable fashion consultant, says that if Lululemon were to reduce its emissions, this would lead to higher production costs and ultimately make its products, which are already marked as luxury goods, even more expensive.

"If we choose to take voluntary steps to reduce or mitigate our impact on climate change, we may experience increases in energy, production, transportation, and raw material costs, capital expenditures, or insurance premiums and deductibles, which could adversely impact our operations," the company's 2021 report writes.