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Environmental advocacy organisation files complaint against Lululemon

By Simone Preuss


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Credits: Lululemon

Canadian sportswear retailer Lululemon can't seem to leave controversy behind - after company founder stirred it with his diversity remarks at the beginning of the year, allegations concerning an ‘unwelcoming company culture’ lingered a few months ago. There was also a law suit by Nike a year ago, and not to forget the debacle with transparent yoga pants a few years ago. Now, the company has come under criticism again. This time it is about environmental claims in the company’s “Be Planet” campaign.

“Lululemon pollutes the planet while selling consumers on Be Planet campaign,” criticises North American environmental advocacy organisation Stand.earth. It requests an anti-competition investigation into the company’s environmental claims and has therefore lodged a complaint with the Competition Bureau Canada.

“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 literally 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,’” said Tzeporah Berman, international program director at Stand.earth, in a press release.

Stand.earth accuses Lululemon of greenwashing

According to Lululemon's “Impact Report” published last autumn, the company's emissions and therefore its climate pollution increased by 100 percent (p. 79) since the introduction of the slogan “Be Planet”.

The report also makes it clear that the company relies on climate-damaging fossil fuels to produce more than 60 percent of its products (p. 55). These cannot be effectively recycled nor are they biodegradable and release microplastics into oceans and waterways.

By filing the complaint, Stand.earth seeks a rescission of such claims and highlights the need for brands to make clear and accurate environmental claims that avoid exaggerations.

“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,” states Rachel Kitchin, senior corporate climate campaigner at Stand.earth.

“Despite these claims, some of the company's biggest suppliers have made no clear strides towards reducing their negative impact on the planet. I would call that greenwashing. 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,” demands Kitchin.

At the beginning of December last year, Stand.earth had denounced the fashion industry's positioning of biomass as a sustainable fuel as greenwashing.

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