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31 Jan

How Ethical Is Lululemon?

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Is Lululemon as dedicated to “active sustainability” as it says? How ethical is Lululemon, really? Sadly calling Lululemon “ethical” is a bit of a stretch, and we rate the brand “Not Good Enough”. This article is based on the Lululemon rating published in January 2024 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.

Is Lululemon ethical or sustainable? That’s a bit of a stretch

Lululemon is a high-end activewear chain that offers yoga-inspired athletic apparel for most sweaty pursuits. While the brand claims to be dedicated to “sustainable practice”, does it really put its best foot forward for people, the planet, and animals? Or is it a s-t-r-e-t-c-h to call it ethical? Read on to find out what its impact is really like as we answer the question: how ethical is Lululemon?

Environmental impact

Lululemon claims sustainability as one of its core principles, but its environmental impact is “Not Good Enough”, and it hasn’t changed since our previous analysis of the brand in January 2022.

Lululemon only uses some lower-impact materials, including recycled materials. While it has set a science-based target to make a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions generated from its owned operations and supply chain by 2030, it is unclear whether it’s on track to meet its target. There is no evidence it has taken meaningful action to protect biodiversity in its supply chain or to minimise microplastic impacts, either. This last part is especially worrying as nylon and polyester, two non-biodegradable, fossil fuel-derived materials that have the potential to release harmful microfibres that pollute the environment, are Lululemon’s largest procured materials by weight. In the Arctic, studies have found that nearly three-quarters of microplastic pollution comes from polyester, and these big brands that still rely heavily on polyester while claiming to be sustainable have a huge responsibility to address their usage. And while Lululemon is working towards switching to recycled nylon and polyester, which are better alternatives to virgin materials, it still isn’t enough.

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

Labour conditions

Regarding workers, Lululemon falls short again, with a “Not Good Enough” rating. Some of Lululemon’s final production stage is certified by Fair Labor Association (FLA), which is an improvement from past ratings where none of the brand’s supply chain was certified, but the “good” news ends here.

There is no evidence the brand implements practices to support diversity and inclusion in its supply chain, and while it claims to have a program to improve wages, we found no evidence that workers are paid a living wage. It received a score of 51-60% in the Fashion Transparency Index, and to top it all off, the brand sources its final stage of production from countries with extreme risk of labour abuse. It has also been linked with cotton sourcing from the Xinjiang region in China, where there is a risk of using Uyghur forced labour. The brand has taken insufficient steps to remediate.

Animal welfare

Lululemon’s score for animals now “Not Good Enough”, a drop from its previous score of “It’s a Start”. While it does not use fur, angora, leather, or exotic animal skin, there is no evidence that it has a policy in place to minimise the suffering of animals. It uses down feathers accredited by the Responsible Down Standard, which is a plus, but it also uses wool, silk, and exotic animal hair. It traces some animal products to the first stage of production, but still has a long way to go in this area.

Overall rating: ‘Not Good Enough’

So, how ethical is Lululemon? Based on information from our research in January 2024, we’ve given Lululemon an overall rating of “Not Good Enough”. When it comes to labour, we’re glad to see some level of transparency in the supply chain, but it still falls short. If the brand’s 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, especially when it comes to managing the impacts of microplastics.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

Luckily there are numerous more ethical activewear brands that have our full support, which you can see below.

Good swaps

“Good” and “Great” alternatives to Lululemon

Boody

Rated: Good

Founded in Australia by two best friends, Boody is a clothing brand with comfort, style, and health at its core. It creates comfortable, thoughtfully-made everyday essentials made from organically grown bamboo. It reduces waste through lower-waste cutting techniques and using a closed-loop system in its supply chain, supporting the green and ethical movement.

Find the range in sizes XS-4XL.

See the rating.

Shop Boody.

CasaGIN

Rated: Good
woman wearing sustainable teal singlet by ethical brand CasaGIN

Italian brand CasaGIN designs apparel for those looking to foster a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle in their closet and beyond.

Find most items in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop CasaGIN.

dk active

Rated: Great

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dk active is an Australian high-performance brand. It uses renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact, and reuses all of its offcuts to minimise textile waste. It is also a PETA approved 100% vegan brand.

Find the products in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop dk active.

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Good
Two women wearing sports leggings and crop tops in burgundy and green

Girlfriend Collective creates minimal, luxury clothes made with fair labour, certified by the Social Accountability Standard International SA8000. The brand uses lower-impact materials like recycled polyester as well as lower-impact, non-toxic dyes and is fully OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified.

Inclusively sized Girlfriend Collective offers products from 2XS-6XL.

See the rating.

Shop Girlfriend Collective @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Girlfriend Collective.

tentree

Rated: Good
women wearing black sports bras by tentree

Canadian brand tentree believes big change starts small. Small as in bringing your reusable bag to the grocery store, making fewer, more thoughtful purchases, and choosing to purchase more sustainably when you do. The brand plants ten trees for every item purchased to help regenerate ecosystems and provide planting jobs in communities around the world, and has already planted over 65 million trees.

All tentree’s products are created with an Earth-First approach, meaning they're made in fair, safe working conditions, and constructed using lower-impact and recycled materials.

tentree’s super comfy fabrics and easy wardrobe staples are typically available from XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop tentree.

Tripulse

Rated: Great
People laughing in sports bras by Tripulse.

Tripulse is a Swedish activewear brand on a mission to create high-performing activewear that protects our planet and its people. The brand believes that fitness, both physical and mental, is the foundation for a good and healthy life and gives people the courage to live the life they dreamed of, become their best selves, make bold moves, and change the world for the better.

Find most items in sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Tripulse.

Elle Evans

Rated: Good

Founded in 2013 in Australia, Elle Evans Swimwear creates beautiful, lower-impact swimwear and activewear for people who care about fashion and the future. The brand uses post-consumer waste fabrics and traces all of its supply chain.

The range is stocked in sizes 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Elle Evans.

Organique

Rated: Good
People dressed in fitted basics, bodysuits, shirts and vest by Organique.

Organique is a Portuguese athleisure brand made for the contemporary woman. It is entirely produced in a high-end local atelier and promotes slow fashion by designing with longevity in mind. It uses high-quality, organic materials and lower-impact fabrics such as organic cotton and TENCEL Lyocell and is completely vegan.

Find the range in sizes S-L.

See the rating.

Shop Organique.

Iron Roots

Rated: Great
Someone in top and shorts by Iron Roots.

Iron Roots is a Dutch sportswear brand that makes all its apparel from plant-based fabrics. Its pieces effortlessly combine more responsible design and functionality.

Find most items in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Iron Roots.

Discover more sustainable alternatives to Lululemon leggings

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash. Additional images via the brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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