“Be Planet,” in the mile high emissions club

March 19, 2024
lululemon logo peaking out from under bunch of coal

Last month, Stand.earth formally submitted a complaint to the Competition Bureau Canada against Vancouver-based multinational retailer Lululemon, underlining how the company misleads customers about its environmental impact.

Lululemon’s mantra is supposedly “Be Planet,” but its actions seem to speak otherwise. For example, let’s take a look at the company’s use of airplanes to ship their products:. Air freight produces dramatically more CO2 compared to ocean freight – up to 79 times more emissions according to figures published by the MIT Climate Portal. Being a self-declared climate conscious company, and given that inbound logistics are the second-largest source of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions*, it would be reasonable to assume that Lululemon is taking every step it can to avoid using air freight, right? Wrong!

In their 2022 Annual Report, Lululemon said that “supply chain disruptions” caused them to increase their use of air freight in 2021 and the first half of 2022, without specifying exactly what that means. We could perhaps excuse them if they eliminated air freight after this temporary blip, but that’s not what Stand.earth Research Group found after analyzing trade data.

We looked at exports from two countries, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, which together account for over 50% of Lululemon’s production**. It turns out that Lululemon consistently uses air freight for about 30% of its shipments – a far cry from zero. And in 2021 it averaged a whopping 69%.

What does this mean in terms of CO2 emissions? We calculated that at 30% air cargo, assuming exports from Vietnam and Sri Lanka are representative of their supply chains in general, Lululemon’s in-bound transportation emissions might be nine times higher than if they were only shipping by sea***.

“Be Planet” appears to be little more than greenwash.


* Lululemon, Impact Report 2022, page 50.
Lululemon, 2022 Annual Report.
Using a air-sea emissions ratio of 36x per tonne-km (the most conservative figure of three that we assessed), an air-sea share by value (based on analysis of customs data) and an air-sea distance ratio (from Searates cargo calculator) of 31.0% and 0.91 respectively for Vietnam and 26.2% and 0.53 for Sri Lanka, and relative share of production split for Vietnam and Sri Lanka of 84.2:15.8 (based on data found in Lululemon 2022 Annual Report), we arrive at a final estimate that Lululemon’s current use air freight is resulting in in 9.3x greater inbound transportation emissions.

Want to see this investigation taken to the finish line? Add your name here to stop Lululemon’s greenwashing.