VANCOUVER — A non-profit organization in British Columbia announced Monday it has asked Canada's Competition Bureau to investigate athletic-wear giant Lululemon, claiming the company is misleading customers about its environmental impacts.
A statement from Stand.earth says Lululemon has been using the slogan "Be Planet" as part of its "impact agenda" released in 2020, but the company's own reports reveal a doubling of greenhouse-gas emissions since then.
Lululemon's 2022 impact report says its "products and actions help lead (the) industry toward a climate-stable future where nature and people thrive."
It says the Vancouver-based company aims to meet a series of climate action targets by 2030, including a 60-per-cent reduction in emissions intensity for "Scope 3" operations, encompassing the making and shipping of clothing globally.
But Lululemon's reports, cited by Stand.earth, show total emissions for that category rose to nearly 1.7 million tonnes, up from about 830,000 tonnes in 2020.
Those "Scope 3" activities represent 99.7 per cent of the company's total carbon footprint, the 2022 report says. It shows 16 per cent of emissions in 2022 stemmed from raw materials and 26.8 per cent came from manufacturing, while energy consumption in stores and offices amounted to just 0.3 per cent.
Rachel Kitchin, senior corporate climate campaigner with Stand.earth,said Lululemon claims that its products are good for the planet, but more than 60 per cent of the materials for its products are made directly from fossil fuels.
The company's clothing is made in factories that are powered by fossil fuels, including coal,she told a news conference, adding Lululemon has favoured shipping by aviation over marine freight, a choice that is more harmful to the climate.
"If Lululemon wants its word to ring true, the company needs a clear pathway to kick fossil fuels out of its products and manufacturing, and to commit to transitioning its supply chain to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030," she said.
In response, a statement attributed to a company representative on Monday said Lululemon is "focused on helping to create a garment industry that is more sustainable and addresses the serious impacts of climate change."
"We remain committed to working directly with our suppliers, industry partners, civil society, and policy makers," it said, adding the company has contributed $10 million to a fund aimed at accelerating climate action in the global apparel industry.
The statement said Lululemon is investing in its "decarbonization plan," aiming to become a "net-zero company" by 2050 with a 90-per-cent reduction in emissions.
Luluelmon has so far met its goals to power its own facilities with renewable electricity while cutting those emissions by 60 per cent, it said.
The company recognizes that the majority of its carbon footprint comes from emissions "within the broader supply chain," the statement said.
Tzeporah Berman, international program director for Stand.earth, told the news conference that Lululemon's branding amounts to "greenwashing," purporting to be a climate steward while pocketing profits associated with rising emissions.
"After two years of bringing this issue to attention to senior management at Lululemon, the company has failed to act, yet they've ramped up their greenwashing and their messaging about what a planet leader they are," she said.
With an annual revenue of more than US$8 billion, "Lululemon can afford to establish itself as a leader in sustainability," Berman said.
"Lululemon stands out as a company that has the opportunity to make great change in the world and has one of the largest gulfs between their rhetoric and what they're actually doing on the ground," she said.
The Competition Bureau confirmed Monday that it had received the complaint from Stand.earth alleging Lululemon engaged in deceptive marketing practices.
Christopher Rusnak, a lawyer for Stand.earth based in Vancouver, told the news conference that nine individuals had filed the request.
The document dated Feb. 8 says the applicants acknowledge that Lululemon is "taking steps to reduce the harm its business and products have on the environment," and the request is not a criticism of those efforts.
Rather, it says the criticism is directed at the company's marketing campaign, saying it "goes too far" by creating the impression that Lululemon's actions and products are contributing positively to a healthier environment and planet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.
Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press