In a complaint filed to the independent law enforcement agency Competition Bureau Canada, Stand.earth has accused Lululemon of misleading customers about its environmental impact.
Lululemon is said to have positioned itself as a company committed to people and the planet, however, Stand. earth has alleged its business practices are inconsistent with its environmental ethos.
Stand.earth has claimed Lululemon’s 2022 Impact Report, which was released last autumn contradicts its “Be Planet” tagline with a “100% increase in climate pollution since deploying the slogan”.
The organisation also alleged that more than 60% of the materials used by Lululemon are derived from fossil fuels, which it argued contributes to climate pollution and releases microplastic pollution in oceans and waterways.
Stand.earth international programme director Tzeporah Berman stated: “Lululemon claims to ‘Be Planet’ but their own reporting shows that they have doubled carbon pollution since making the claim.
“They benefit from a carefully constructed image of environmental sustainability and wellness and claim to make products that contribute to a healthy environment, but their exponential growth has been built on fossil fuels, from clothing made from fracked gas to polluting manufacturing that threatens the health of communities in the Global South. Lululemon’s mantra is supposedly ‘Be Planet,’ when in reality it’s ‘Be Profit.'”
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A Lululemon spokesperson told Just Style that the brand was focused on helping to create a garment industry that is “more sustainable” and acknowledges the “serious impacts of climate change.”
The brand recognised that the majority of its impact is from emissions within the broader supply chain and added that in 2022 it conducted a limited intensity reduction in its scope 3 greenhouse emissions and is continuously working to accelerate the progress.
“We are proud to have reached our goals of 100% renewable electricity and a 60% absolute reduction of greenhouse emissions in our owned and operated facilities. We obtained independent verification of our progress against these metrics,” said the spokesperson.
Stand.earth has also questioned Lululemon’s performance in terms of environmental responsibility and gave the retailer a ‘C-‘ rating in its 2023 Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard. The scorecard is said to have evaluated the company’s efforts to deploy renewable energy, set climate targets, transition away from fossil fuel-based materials, and reduce fossil fuel pollution from shipping.
Stand.earth’s senior corporate climate campaigner Rachel Kitchin claimed there is a disparity between Lululemon’s claims and actions. She said: “Lululemon states that its ‘products and actions avoid environmental harm and contribute to restoring a healthy planet,’ however, its products are made in factories that burn coal for energy and are made in countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia that rely heavily on fossil fuels to power their production.
“If Lululemon wants its words to ring true, it should immediately commit to kicking out coal and shifting its products from fossil fuels to clean energy.”
The Lululemon spokesperson explained that the brand focuses on four areas of carbon footprint: products and packaging, manufacturing, transportation, and owned and operated facilities.
“We invest in these areas through our annual business planning, as well as through industry collaborations, including the Apparel Impact Institute Fashion Climate Fund. We have made annual disclosures on climate progress to the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) since 2011, and report against our goals in our annual Impact Report.”
The spokesperson went on to say that Lululemon is committed to collaborating with suppliers, industry partners, and policymakers to accelerate collective climate action, contributing $10m to the Fashion Climate Fund to “accelerate collective climate action.”
Greenwash Action Lab co-founder and associate professor of management and sustainability at Western University, Wren Montgomery, claimed Lululemon’s marketing claims seem “to fit” with her “own oft-cited definition of greenwash”. She described it as “communication that misleads people into adopting overly positive beliefs about an organisation’s environmental performance, practices, or products”.
The environmental advocacy organisation has published a letter with nearly 50,000 community member signatories urging Lululemon to transition to clean, renewable energy sources.
Stand.earth argued the fashion industry’s environmental footprint is substantial, accounting for up to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With emissions projected to rise, it added that the industry’s heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuels poses significant challenges to climate stability and public health.
The organisation was also keen to highlight that the most important change fashion brands can make to their supply chains if they wish to cut emissions is to switch to renewable energy manufacturing.