Lululemon, that staple of the fashion industry and an international beacon of its hometown’s wellness culture, always made me proud. The flagship store on 4th Avenue was the local little company that became one of Canada’s best-known brands while espousing Vancouver’s best values.

Imagine my dismay at finding out the homegrown startup has one of the worst records on climate change. That my leggings are made in factories that drive air pollution in the Global South and contribute to climate change worldwide.

When the research first came out, I expected we just needed to alert them to it and they would commit to clean it up and use their influence to help shift their suppliers to cleaner practices. So far, not so much. Lululemon’s actions, especially regarding sustainability, do not match the values it claims to champion.

As Lululemon held its annual shareholders' meeting earlier this month, the company is buoyed by its continued steady growth, even as other fashion companies floundered through the past three years of the pandemic. But its pristine reputation is at risk of being tarnished without a serious reckoning and immediate change in course around its environmental impacts.

As of 2023, Lululemon is the 12th biggest company in Canada — bigger than Suncor and Manulife — and arguably one of this country’s most famous international ambassadors. Canada’s Olympic athletes wore the Lululemon logo alongside the Maple Leaf at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. But were they really wearing Canadian values on their sleeves? research found that based on where Lululemon outsources its manufacturing to, the famous red puffer jacket was made with 48 per cent coal, and only five per cent renewable energy.

Having just announced a remarkable first-quarter revenue growth of 24 per cent, and with a market capitalization of around US$47 billion, Lululemon is one of the fastest-growing fashion brands in the world.

It widely advertises commitments to health and wellness and “personal responsibility.” Speaking about his first-quarter results, CEO Calvin McDonald attributed Lululemon’s success to “creating deeper connections and more holistic relationships.”

Yet, emissions have ballooned out of control, with no signs of slowing: according to its own reporting, between 2019 and 2021, its carbon pollution from manufacturing and shipping increased by over 83 per cent. And last year, the company announced plans to further double its profits by 2026 to $12.5 billion.

As Lululemon grows, so do its negative environmental impacts. Profits have gone up alongside emissions, but investment in just and equitable climate solutions has not. Workers and communities in Lululemon’s supply chain, from Bangladesh to Vietnam and China, continue to live and work in coal-polluted areas while providing cheap labour amid record-breaking heat waves or devastating floods.

Lululemon must immediately commit to power its manufacturing facilities with 100 per cent renewable energy and cut supply chain emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, writes Tzeporah Berman @tzeporah @standearth #cdnpoli #ClimateJustice #FossilFuels

In Vietnam, home to nearly a third of Lululemon’s suppliers, high-profile environmental defenders have been arbitrarily arrested for publicly advocating for clean air and green energy, and one is on a hunger strike to the death to protest his detention. Companies like Lululemon have been silent on advocating for their release.

This is because the fashion industry continues to grow on a fundamentally extractive colonial model. Shiny glass-fronted stores in the Global North use resources, labour and profit from the Global South, which are left with coal-fired pollution’s environmental damage. It is not a great fit for Lululemon by its own yardstick of values.

Credit where it is due: following public campaigning led by, Lululemon made motions towards cleaning up its supply chain, including a public investment of US$10 million into the Apparel Impact Institute’s Fashion Climate Fund — designed to provide funding for factories in the apparel supply chain to make the upfront investments in carbon-reduction programs like energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Except it’s all a day late and more than a dollar short. A one-off $10-million payout represents just 0.12 per cent of the company’s US$8.1 billion revenue in 2022 revenue. It still has not publicly committed to phasing out fossil fuels from its supply chain by transitioning to 100 per cent clean energy. After more than a year of public calls for it to act, and in contradiction of its own self-avowed ethical, mindful, green values, Lululemon places profit over people and the planet.

There’s still time for Lululemon — a major global brand, a Canadian ambassador and a preacher of wellness and responsibility — to turn it around. Lulu can, and should, be leading calls for decarbonization in countries like Vietnam and ensuring that the voices of communities and civil society groups are included.

As it faces its board, investors, and customers, Lululemon has the chance to prove its values aren’t just buzzwords used to sell clothes and yoga mats and be a genuine leader in an industry that desperately needs them.

Lululemon must immediately commit to power its manufacturing facilities with 100 per cent renewable energy and cut supply chain emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. In its upcoming Impact Report, the company should present a clear pathway with interim targets to achieve this goal.

Simply put, Lululemon needs to live by its values.

Tzeporah Berman, BA MES LLD (honoris causa), has been designing and winning environmental campaigns in Canada and internationally for 30 years. She is currently the international program director at and the chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.