Energy and oil companies are not the only parties that must accommodate the implications of climate change. Athletes and yogis also understand that environmental health is the foundation of personal health, leading companies such as Lululemon to begin taking steps to measure and reduce its carbon footprint for the well-being of the global communities in which it operates. Founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver, Canada in 1998, Lululemon is a yoga-inspired, highly technical athletic apparel company.
One way in which Lululemon’s business model is vulnerable to climate change includes increased water stress or scarcity from suppliers that could: cause a disruption to supply, slow production, reduce product quality or significantly increase costs to the company . To mitigate this risk, Lululemon is measuring water use in its supply chain to identify suppliers that use water inefficiently, while preparing to shift supply away from water scarcity issues and helping suppliers identify and solve any potential issues . For example, in China, the company is researching and testing low water and no water dyes for its fabrics which would significantly decrease the amount of water used in their supply chain .
In addition, water quality also poses a threat to Lululemon as poor quality has the potential to increase production costs from increased water filtration and purification processes . To accommodate this risk, Lululemon must understand the water and carbon footprints of its organization, value chain, products and materials, allowing it to implement comprehensive water policies that mitigate negative environmental impacts .
Further, Lululemon’s reputation is also at stake, as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of climate change on the ecosystems in which they thrive. Lululemon must show that they are a global, responsible leader who is taking steps to address climate change, especially since the company’s original vision for its store was to “create a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living, mindfulness and living a life of possibility .”
Key initiatives that Lululemon is taking to better manage its carbon footprint include the following:
- Materials: Lululemon requires that all manufacturers adhere to a vendor code of ethics regarding environmental sustainability practices and has partnered with bluesign® system partners to ensure the processes and materials used to manufacture their products meet the highest environmental standards . Further, the company designs its products to withstand five years of intended use, reducing the footprint created over the lifecycle of the product .
- Carbon: To reduce carbon emission, Lululemon has been sponsoring several innovations like Sustainable Apparel Coalition as a way of supporting ways to decrease harmful carbon emissions .
- Water: Lululemon’s raw material developers are investing ways to source more environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes that require less water while delivering the same high-quality, colorful products .
- Waste: In 2014, the company assessed its company-wide waste footprint to evaluate the amount of waste produced globally and ways to reduce it . Lululemon investigated all sources of waste within its owned and operated facilities, distribution centers, offices, packaging, and all damaged and returned products .
- For example, with the company’s partner DEBRAND, 98% of damaged products are recycled into a material called “shoddy” which is used as stuffing for mattresses and insulation for homes, cars, and even in sporting equipment like boxing gloves and punching bags .
- Shipping: Lululemon is working with supply chain efficiency experts to find ways to ship products by boat, which have 100 times less of a footprint than products shipped by air . Further, in 2014, Lululemon opened a new distribution center in Ohio that permits it to utilize more ground transportation for shipping to the East coast, while still delivering products to stores and customers quickly .
To solidify its eco-friendly positioning, Lululemon can take additional steps to supplement the above measures. Despite its product’s considerably light packaging, packaging still represents 40% of the company’s global waste footprint, so there is still room for the company to consider its vision for packaging and its plans to making improvements . Further, Lululemon’s shopping bags, although highly reusable and made from 25% recycled content, are crafted from a mix of materials that make them not fully recyclable at this point, providing an opportunity to continue improving the shopping bag’s environmental footprint .
Lululemon must continue seeking ways to transform its operating model, products, and stores to address the risk of large scale climate change that is facing the world. Ultimately, its “yoga like approach to sustainability”: always seeing room for improvement and committing to sustainable initiatives over the long run, allows Lululemon to focus on getting stronger every day in not only advocating for the health of their consumers but the broader ecosystem in which the company operates.
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 Carbon Disclosure Project, “CDP Water Disclosure 2012 Information Request, Lululemon Athletica Inc.,” http://sustainability.eu.lululemon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/CDP-2012-Water-Disclosure-lululemon-athletica.pdf, accessed November 2016.
 2015 Annual Report. Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2015 Annual Report, p. 4, 2015 Annual Report, accessed November 2016.