27 Nov

How Ethical Is Lululemon?

Lululemon is a high-end activewear chain that offers yoga-inspired athletic apparel for most sweaty pursuits. While they claim to be dedicated to sustainable practice, do Lululemon really put their best foot forward for people, planet and animals? Or is it a s-t-r-e-t-c-h to call them ethical? Read on to find out what their impact is really like.

Environmental Impact: Not Good Enough

While Lululemon is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and claim sustainability as one of their core principles, their environmental impact is simply not good enough.

Lululemon only use a low proportion of eco-friendly materials, but they do recycle some off-cuts during the manufacturing process. They measure and report on direct and indirect energy usage, however, they’ve made no time-bound commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is definitely not good enough!

Lululemon do comply with a Restricted Substances List and around 60% of their materials are Bluesign certified. Again though, they have not set a deadline for the elimination of hazardous chemicals. There is also no evidence that Lululemon has adequate policies or initiatives on water usage and wastewater management.

On the sustainability section of their website, Lululemon talk a lot about ways to improve environmental impact. Although this is positive, in reality, it doesn’t reflect any meaningful action. For a global brand such as Lululemon, there really is no excuse for them not to do their part for the environment.

Labour Conditions: Good

Lululemon is doing well on the labour front based on the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report, which looks at criteria such as payment of a living wage, transparency and worker empowerment. The brand received the top score for their Supplier Code of Conduct. They trace almost all of their supply chain including final stage, inputs and raw materials.

Lululemon publicly list some of their suppliers and ensure no subcontracting occurs or that all subcontracted production adheres to code standards. They also audit most of their traced facilities over a two-year period across the entire supply chain.

Despite all this, Lululemon has minimal worker empowerment initiatives and has made little to no progress toward payment of a living wage. And while they’ve signed the Uzbek Cotton Pledge, they really need to go that one step further in ensuring the workers they do source their products from are being treated fairly.

Animal Welfare: Good

Overall Lululemon do right by our furred, feathered and scaled friends. They do not use fur, leather, shearling, angora or exotic animal hair or skin. While they do use wool, it comes from non-mulesed sheep, and their down feather is 100% accredited by the Responsible Down Standard.

Luckily for all of us conscious consumers, there are some activewear labels out there who stay true to sustainability in all three categories! If you’re ready to sweat without regret, check out these ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ rated brands:

Overall Rating: It's A Start

Rated: It's A Start

All things considered, Lululemon is taking positive steps toward becoming a sustainable brand. Based on information from the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report and our own research, we've given them a rating of 'It’s a Start'.

When it comes to labour, while their Code of Conduct for workers is solid, they still fall short. If their employees aren't being paid a living wage, it's simply not good enough to be considered truly ethical conduct. On the environment front, we'd like to see less talk and more action!

Editor's note: Feature Image Via Lululemon. Additional images via the brands mentioned.

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