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Lululemon Is ‘Listening’ in New Impact Report, Says Sustainability SVP

Lululemon released its third impact report Tuesday building on goals developed three years ago.

Head down and in focus mode, Lululemon’s Esther Speck, senior vice president of sustainable business and impact, detailed the progress to date. “I’ve been with Lululemon for over seven years, and in the sustainability and impact space for over 15 years. One of the things I appreciate most is Lululemon’s integrated approach and the intentionality of how we do this work — we are committed to acting with urgency while taking a thoughtful approach,” she told WWD. “It is vital this work is integrated and embedded into core business strategies. Our Impact Agenda underpins our Power of Three x 2 enterprise growth strategy, putting people and the planet at the center of how we grow and evolve.”

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The brand reported progress across climate, worker well-being, social impact and more. Milestones span Lululemon’s “Like New” resale program (now in all of its U.S. stores) and committing $10 million to social impact organizations. Too, the launch of its plant-based nylon earlier this year and investment in materials dot its carbon-reduction trajectory. The company looks to move away from virgin nylon indefinitely, which was the subject of protests from watchdog Stand.Earth last September. Now, more than half — or 57 percent of Lululemon’s Tier 2 suppliers by volume — are signed up for the company’s Carbon Leadership Program, which incentivizes decarbonization through improved energy efficiency. Also this year, Lululemon announced a multiyear collaboration with Samsara Eco, to scale circularity through textile-to-textile recycle.

Well-being is an essential component of the brand’s identity. “The people who make our products — our makers — are one of our most important communities,” said Speck. “In 2022, we provided more than 35,000 additional makers in our supply chain with access to well-being tools and resources, bringing us halfway toward our goal of reaching 100,000 makers by 2025.”

Lululemon committed to be a net-zero company by 2050, a goal pursued by Levi’s and Tiffany & Co., among others. Though, as with players in the space, Lululemon doesn’t have a full reign on its activities.

“We achieve certification through True Zero Waste, which includes achieving an average of 90 percent or greater overall diversion from landfill at our distribution centres,” said Speck. “We define zero waste as consistently reusing, recycling, or composting over 90 percent of waste materials each year, aligned with industry standards. A small amount of hard-to-recycle items are sent to landfill. We continue to advance operational efficiency and carbon savings across our packaging and operations.”

As a Sustainable Apparel Coalition member and lead funding partner for Apparel Impact Institute’s Fashion Climate Fund with much skin in the game, Speck is keen to see progress amplified across the industry.

“One of the most important takeaways is our continued progress and momentum across our Impact Agenda goals, building on successes and learnings. This work is transformative and that’s what makes it so interesting and critical.”

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