Activists protest Lululemon's Blissfeel running shoe debut over climate change concerns

Saturday March 26, 2022

New women's footwear line adds to Lululemon’s climate problem due to company’s factories in China relying heavily on coal to power manufacturing

VANCOUVER, BC — Just days after popular athleisure brand Lululemon debuted its new line of running shoes, climate activists concerned about the company’s contribution to climate change from its coal-powered factories took the streets in protest on Saturday, March 26, outside the company’s Kitsilano store location in its hometown of Vancouver, B.C. 

A Stand.earth analysis found that Lululemon’s Blissfeel women’s running shoes are made in factories in China where 66% of the power used for manufacturing comes from coal, and only 9% comes from renewable energy. Most countries where Lululemon’s factories are located rely heavily on a coal-powered electricity grid, which not only causes poor air quality that harms the health of people living nearby, but also contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions that worsen the effects of climate change. 

Amid chants of “break up with coal”, activists hosted an aerobics workshop on Lululemon’s climate failures. Participants did group stretching exercises, traced human footprints on the sidewalk, and spread fake coal in front of the store. Others held banners reading “Feel Bliss?” with an image of coal pouring out Lululemon’s new Blissfeel shoes, while nearby, one of the shoes filled with “coal” was placed atop a white pedestal. See photos and video.

“Lululemon’s new line of women’s running shoes might be dubbed the ‘Blissfeel’ for how they feel on your feet, but the coal-powered manufacturing of these shoes is anything but blissful for people and the climate. This is especially the case for women, who often bear the brunt of Lululemon’s climate and air pollution — especially in countries like China, Vietnam and Bangladesh — where its products are made,” said Erdene Batzorig, a Vancouver resident and the Digital Campaigner with the Fossil Free Fashion campaign at Stand.earth. (Read more about Batzorig’s firsthand experience growing up with coal pollution in this Georgia Straight op-ed.)

The multi-trillion dollar fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions surpass those generated by other polluting industries such as aviation and shipping, and are expected to drastically increase in the coming years. Despite painting itself as a “healthy lifestyle” brand and sustainability leader, Lululemon has yet to commit to eliminating coal from its supply chains, and has done very little to advocate for the transition from coal to renewable energy in the countries where its factories are located — including Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Lululemon is notably missing from joint effortssigned by other fashion brands, including competitor Nike, to encourage fashion-producing countries to increase renewable energy. 

“Instead of making a state-of-the-art running shoe that stands out among its competition by using renewable energy, Lululemon's new 'Blissfeel' running shoes are increasing the demand for coal, increasing the company’s pollution and climate impacts, and undermining its stated commitment to ‘wellbeing’. If Lululemon is serious about advancing the wellbeing of both people and planet, it can start by shifting its factories off coal, investing in renewable energy, and advocating for the rapid transition from coal to renewables in countries where its factories are located,” said Muhannad Malas, Senior Climate Campaigner with the Fossil Free Fashion campaign at Stand.earth. 

Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said as recently as February 2022 that he believes “everyone has the right to be well” in connection with the company’s Global Wellbeing Report, but apparently that belief does not apply to the people who work in its factories or live near the coal-powered manufacturing of its clothing and footwear.

BACKGROUND

For more than a year, Stand.earth has called on Lululemon — one of the biggest, most profitable, and fastest growing sportswear brands in the world — to do better on climate change. In February 2022, Stand.earth criticized the company’s Team Canada Olympics gear for contributing to climate change and threatening the very future of winter sports (See photos). In November 2021, Stand.earth released an analysis revealing that despite Luluemon’s participation in fashion industry climate initiatives, and despite its commitment to reduce emissions in the coming decade, the company’s supply chain emissions actually increased in 2020.

Stand.earth’s Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard released in August 2021 benchmarked 47 top fashion companies on their efforts to tackle climate change. The report broadly failed the fashion industry on its efforts to address climate change, and gave Lululemon a D- for failing to take meaningful action to work with suppliers to increase renewable energy use in its supply chain, phase out coal usage, or advocate for or sourcing renewable energy for its factories. 

Learn more about Stand.earth's Fossil Free Fashion Campaign at lulucoal.com.

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Media contacts: 

(On Site) Erdene Batzorig, Digital Campaigner, erdene@stand.earth, +1 514 585 9260 (Pacific Time)
(Remote) Muhannad Malas, Senior Climate Campaigner, , +1 604 757 7246 (Eastern Time)