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Competition Bureau investigating Lululemon for greenwashing

Activist group Stand.Earth accuses athleisure retailer of increasing its environmental burden while claiming otherwise.
Lululemon's flagship Vancouver store is at the corner of Robson and Burrard streets.

Canada's Competition Bureau is investigating Vancouver-based fashion retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. (Nasdaq:LULU) for misrepresenting its record on how it is lessening its burden on the environment, the Competition Bureau confirmed today in an email to BIV.

"There is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time," the email said. "While the bureau endeavours to complete its investigations as expeditiously as possible, it would be inappropriate to speculate as to when the bureau will reach any conclusion."

Complainant Stand.Earth first alerted BIV to the investigation. It sent BIV a PDF of a redacted letter on Competition Bureau letterhead but housed on the Stand.Earth website. Stand.Earth filed its lengthy complaint on Feb. 8.

“We are aware of the Canadian Competition Bureau’s review and are committed to cooperating on any next steps," Lululemon told BIV this afternoon in an email. "We are confident that its review will confirm that the representations we make to the public are accurate and well-supported."

Stand.Earth takes issue with what it considers Lululemon's excess carbon emissions and the company's slogan: "Be planet."

"Through this investigation, the Competition Bureau will have the opportunity to ask Lululemon how it can claim to ‘Be planet’ while creating more planet-harming emissions every year than half a million cars,” said Todd Paglia, executive director at in his company's press release.

In Lululemon's email to BIV, the company said "'Be planet' is a pillar of our impact agenda that outlines our vision, goals and targets which guide our actions and resource investments in helping to create a garment industry that is more sustainable and addresses the serious impacts of climate change. This work is far from complete."

Stand.Earth's release pointed to Lululemon's 2022 Impact Report, which Stand.Earth claims shows that Lululemon's carbon emissions doubled in the time period since it launched its "Be planet" slogan.

The 2022 report notes 1,691,009 tonnes of 2022 emissions in a category called "total scope 3: all greenhouse gas protocol categories." BIV spoke with Stand.Earth senior corporate climate campaigner Rachel Kitchin who said that the figure in the 2022 Impact Report compares with 829,456 tonnes of emissions in that same "total scope 3: all greenhouse gas protocol categories" identified in Lululemon's 2020 Impact Report (Page 59).

Lululemon responded in its email that it has "achieved a 60-per-cent absolute reduction of greenhouse emissions in our owned and operated facilities but recognize most of the impact comes from emissions within the broader supply chain. That is why we have set externally validated (SBTi) 2030 climate targets, and a goal to be Net Zero by 2050, and are taking action."

Kitchin also criticized Lululemon for having more than 60 per cent of its materials being "fossil fuel-derived."

About 34 per cent of the company's materials were polyester in 2022, while 33 per cent were nylon, according to the 2022 Impact Report (Page 55).

"The issue isn't necessarily that Lululemon is so much worse than everybody else," Kitchin said. "It's really that it's claiming to be so much better."

She added that Lululemon is claiming to make products "that are healthier, restore a healthier planet, and that's just not true."

Kitchin said that a separate Public Eye report showed that Lululemon is using air freight more than other retailers, although it was not immediately clear when that data was collected or whether the increased use of air freight was a solution to temporary supply-chain glitches during the pandemic. 

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