Are Accusations of Greenwashing Helpful When There is a Climate Crisis?

The environmental group, STAND earth filed a complaint with Competition Bureau Canada that Lululemon, the Canadian global yoga and active-wear apparel manufacturer and retailer, was greenwashing its claim of lowering its environmental footprint through different initiatives, when in fact, it was increasing. Is this complaint a helpful way to deal with the climate crisis? started in Canada and has its office in Vancouver, but it also operates in the U.S. with offices in two states, yet they chose to take on a Canadian global company in Canada to file their complaint of greenwashing -- probably because it is easier and cheaper to do so in Canada. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to look at the complaint in the context of the climate crisis.

Lululemon is a success story that originated in Vancouver when its founder, Chip Wilson, attended a yoga class to help heal his snowboarding injuries. Having just sold his snowboarding apparel store, he noticed there was a need for specialized yoga clothing. From that lightbulb moment, Lululemon was created in 1998, and grew into a global brand.

The concern here is do we want to penalize companies that show they care about their environmental footprint and are doing something about it? Or, do we want them to go back to the status quo where companies have no environmental or social awareness and take no action?

Disclosure: I buy Lululemon clothing because the company is Canadian so it’s subject to Canadian laws. Their clothing is comfortable, well-designed and attractive. I also own stock in the company. As an environmentalist who supports several environmental charities, I had not heard of And, maybe that is why the intersection of and Lululemon is worth looking at.

Environmental charities are like businesses in that they need to attract donors to maintain their staff and operating expenses. Going after a high-profile company would raise their own profile. Competition for Canadian donor dollars is stiff with the average donor being 56 years old, according to Statistics Canada. Looking at the top ten registered Canadian charities by donations in 2022 reported by Statista, a German global data and business intelligence platform company, none were environmental. Seven of the top ten charities were universities, followed by World Vision Canada at no. 3, Food Banks Canada at no. 9, and Doctors Without Borders at no. 10.

Is it fair to target Lululemon with greenwashing? No, it’s not. The internet defines greenwashing as misleading or deceptive publicity disseminated information by an organization or company to present an environmentally responsible public image.

Recently, Greenpeace, along with other environmental groups, successfully launched a greenwashing complaint with the Competition Bureau Canada against the Pathways Alliance, a consortium of the six largest oil sands companies: Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Imperial, Meg Energy, and Suncor Energy.

The Pathways Alliance’s greenwashing marketing included a widespread ad campaign across the country, especially in high-profile placements such as Super Bowl ads, a billboard at BC Place in Vancouver, and fully painted streetcars in Toronto making claims that their ‘net-zero plan is in motion’. The Competition Bureau responded on April 25, 2023 that they would be launching a formal inquiry. To date, the Pathways Alliance’s ‘net-zero plan’ that is the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world is still not committed by the consortium, which may be a good thing.

Yes, Lululemon’s website presents itself as an environmentally responsible company with extensively detailed information on the company’s impact in the areas of people, planet, and governance. For people, the website delves into further detail on its employees, producers, and suppliers. For the planet, the website provides information on its impact from its products and materials, circularity (circular economy), climate action, waste and packaging, water and chemistry. For governance, it also provides its impact.

The only other apparel company that I found with similar information on their website is Nike. Most major apparel companies are private and provide zero information on the company.

If Lululemon was greenwashing, it would not be providing such comprehensive detail of its environmental and social footprint in a transparent manner on its website for customers, shareholders, and suppliers to see. Furthermore, most publicly traded companies in Canada and the US have zero information for investors in their sustainability tab when you look at their listing, whereas LULU does.

Instead of being penalized, Lululemon should be lauded for their transparency and environmental leadership. It would have been more productive for to bring up the discrepancy with Lululemon, and also inform their own supporters, who are likely consumers of Lululemon’s products. Concerned consumers should be making informed purchases by looking at the apparel labels, and asking questions.

Competition Canada may use this opportunity to require that all companies are to report their environmental footprint and sustainability action claims so that they can be independently verified. Then, consumers and shareholders can make informed choices in the context of the climate crisis.

Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese

SMV Energy Solutions

SMV Energy Solutions provides simple smart solutions that conserve energy


web site development by SeeThrough Web