lululemon’s 2022 emissions increase

October 27, 2023
Millions in Vietnam are living in extreme heatwaves and bad air quality – and coal pollution from lululemon's factories are huge contributors.

Here’s a fun challenge. For the remainder of this blog, let’s imagine you and I travelled through Vietnam during a heatwave in April. Get your sunscreen and put on your linen pants because it’s about to be hot – like record-breaking hot.

Here we are in the busy streets of Hanoi, wandering through the centuries-old buildings, exploring the neighbourhood of Hang Bo, and passing by hundreds of locals and foreigners alike. But even though it’s only April, it’s over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit)! With the heat beating down on us, we sit down to rest across from a city worker who has sweated through his work shirt and has his head resting in his hands. In fact, as we look around, there are dozens of people who, like us, are looking to escape this unbearable heat and humidity.

But here is another thing we notice: people all around us are wearing masks. In this heat? Why? As a local explains, the air quality these days is so bad – partly because of pollution from the coal power plants. The local also explains that many factory workers have started to do night shifts – to avoid the worst of the heat and pollution.

Heatwaves and air pollution are a deadly combo that Vietnamese and people across Southeast Asia are increasingly struggling with. And the fashion industry and brands like lululemon are huge contributors to it.

Just a quick Google search shows us that the unprecedented heatwaves and bad air quality are both tied to climate change caused by human activity. A major human activity in Southeast Asia and Vietnam is manufacturing clothes and shoes to export to Europe and North America. For example, Vietnam produced 39% of lululemon’s products in 2022 (in factories that burn coal for energy).

So the question is, how is lululemon’s slogan, “Be Human, Be Well, Be Planet,” yet its manufacturing is harming the health of local communities and the garment workers that make its products? In the company’s most recent climate report, lululemon reported that its emissions increased by another 24% with no meaningful action to curb it. And don’t forget that lululemon’s emissions already increased by 83% between 2019-2021.

The math is adding up, huh? The scenario that I just described hopefully brought you closer to the reality that millions of people across Southeast Asia are enduring. This stark reality of people experiencing relentless heatwaves and air pollution is one that companies like lululemon want to sweep under the rug. But we won’t let them.

Send a message to lululemon’s CEO, Calvin McDonald, to urge him to phase out coal from its manufacturing and curb its deadly emissions. It takes just a few minutes, but a personal note is one of the most effective ways of pushing companies to take climate action.

Over the past two years, this stellar community has taken bold actions to push lululemon to go 100% renewable in its manufacturing and ditch coal. From the over 7,000 yoga practitioners that mobilized and called on lululemon, to the local activists in Vancouver pulling off hard-hitting protests in the streets of Vancouver, to the groundswell of online mobilization, we’ve pushed lululemon to create new climate commitments and new sustainability jobs within the company.

But we can’t stop until we get a public commitment from lululemon to ditch coal and go 100% renewable in its manufacturing. We cannot spend another year hung up on fossil fuel-powered manufacturing.

It’s amazing to see all the momentum we’ve built behind this campaign, and I’m so grateful we’re in this together.