Lululemon Athletica: the now trending, must-have brand for all “yogis”, runners, hip soccer moms, and of course the latest addition: trendy track dads…who would have thought paying $120 for a pair of running leggings would become so popular? Is our community, our work force, and our environment being bettered by choosing to support Lululemon? Let’s take a look:

Looking into the manufacturing process of Lululemon products, I was surprised to find that Lulu owns zero of their manufacturing facilities. Digging further into this process, I proceeded with caution because when a company both outsources and lacks ownership, it becomes increasingly popular to see little care and effort put into working conditions, workers’ rights, and policy and it becomes extremely difficult to enforce agreements and contracts simply because companies are doing the enforcement from afar. That all being said, Lululemon proved my skepticism wrong.

Outsourcing around 97% leaves 3% of the manufacturing to be done in North America. This 3% is responsible for responding quickly to market trends due to the fact that the apparel can be made, shipped, and put in stores or the hands of consumers much faster than from manufacturers overseas.

Though the majority of the manufacturing is done overseas, Lululemon has a relatively small manufacturing base. This is done intentionally to ensure greater control of working environments. When choosing facilities to work with, Lululemon desires to look for people who want to build “long-term partnerships” that promise transparency. On Lulu’s website, you find this: “We believe that the apparel industry has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for positive social, environmental, and economic opportunities globally—we’re dedicated to elevating our partners who are the best at what they do.”

So what does the process of choosing a facility look like? Upon finding a company, Lululemon goes on a tour of the plant, attends a meeting with management, reviews documents including the history of all aspects of the plant itself, and ends by interviewing employees currently working at all levels in the plant. If Lulu approves the facility, the company has to sign an agreement of adopting and implementing Lulu’s code of conduct.

One of the most important pieces of this code of conduct includes Lulu’s zero tolerance policy. Lulu refuses to use companies who use or support child slavery, human trafficking, or involuntary labor nor will they sign with companies whom use these practices in other sectors of the facility. Facilities must also sign a 100% transparency agreement meaning Lulu is given access to the plants at any time and a full report of practices and use of resources is sent to Lululemon. 

After agreeing and signing with a facility, Lululemon is committed to developing a “Corrective and Preventative Action Plan”. This plan is put in place because Lulu understands that when 100% can’t be met, facilities need them to come alongside and push them to be better. Lulu does this by helping these facilities set goals with deadlines…Lulu is committed to long-term partnerships and believe this is an important piece of that relationship.

This dedication to elevating Lulu’s long-term partnerships is currently being displayed in many countries. For example, in Cambodia, Lululemon is working with “Better Factories Cambodia” to uphold workers rights despite the pressure to compromise these rights that many Cambodian companies are facing. In addition to surprise visits ensuring the code of conduct is being followed, workers in this factory are given hands on training and the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to belong to a union, hands on training is given to workers. 

Examples of what happens when there is a lack of commitment to this long-term partnership or no prioritization of the morals behind Lulu’s code of conduct include the following: Lulu refuses to purchase cotton from Uzbekistan because of the child and adult forced labor that is being used, feathers that come from living geese, or wool that comes from factories whom refuse to comply with Domestic Animal Welfare.

Lululemon is fully aware that staying ethical is an extremely difficult task and understands that they cannot do it alone. That being said, working closely with several outside organizations has become a high priority. Lulu is currently partnering with four in particular:

1. Better Work: a company who makes surprise visits to the manufacturing facilities to ensure the  worker’s rights and conditions are up to code.

2. Responsible Sourcing Network: a company dedicated to ending human rights abuse and forced labor

3. Bluesign Technology: a company committed to bettering environmental impacts

4. Canopy: A company who is working to protect forests that are at risk

Lululemon is a company committed to coming alongside it’s workers as well as it’s community. Events are frequently organized by Lulu for the communities in which their stores are located in hopes of emphasizing the community focus while keeping the brand in the spotlight. Lulu wants to see it’s costumers “live longer, healthier, fun-filled, and stress-free lives. These principles include sweating every day, breathing deeply, drinking lots of water, and getting outdoors every day.”

With an emphasis on worker’s rights and a business model driven by the community, Lululemon has proven to be an all around ethical company. Yogis, runners, soccer moms, and track dads–looks like you guys are in the clear…keep doing you!

Written by: Ellie Mulder

http://info.lululemon.com/sustainability/responsible-supply-chain/building-partnerships/industry-collaboration

http://investor.lululemon.com/corporate-governance-document.cfm?documentid=2420

http://marketrealist.com/2014/12/lululemon-supplier-manufacturer-distribution-overview/

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