Lululemon’s Sustainability Ethos Runs Through Every Link on The Supply Chain

jamie_hilts    October 24, 2016

When Lululemon was founded in 1998, it was a yoga studio. As the business grew, it became a brand committed to selling the best yoga wear that the company could manufacture. Lululemon understood that their target market valued sustainability, and they designed their supply chain with that in mind. They strive to manufacture products that are free of cruelty, whether that be human or animal, and they try to keep environmental damage to a minimum. Social media has helped the company monitor the current values of their customers. They then update their practices to stay true to the beliefs of their core consumer base. This not only helps their supply chain stay committed to the company’s values, but also provides Lululemon with a chance to market its product.

Lululemon has a whole section on their website devoted to explaining how their supply chain has a sustainability responsibility, in all aspects of production. Using social media, they have learned that the average Lululemon consumer cares about where their product came from. Using this knowledge, Lululemon has designed their entire supply chain around these values. They could purchase raw materials for a much cheaper cost, but the company only sources materials from factories that meet their rigorous standard. By doing this, they stay true to their company’s mission and keep the quality of their products high. By monitoring the data coming in about consumers habits and opinions, Lululemon is able to quickly make changes. Recently social media has seen an uproar in regards to the use of down for clothing. Lululemon frequently responds to these complaints by assuring customers, that the down they source is cruelty free. Rather than being plucked from a living animal, they source from a company that gets its down as a by-product of the food industry. When asked if they had always had this practice, or if it was a reactionary maneuver to ease public opinion, Lululemon had this to say

Great question! We have always been partnered with DOWNLITE and our goal was to be 100% certified to the Responsible Down Standard by Fall 2016 which we now are. Animal welfare and sustainability is something our company is very passionate about and we appreciate hearing from our guests who share the same passion we do.

This shows the company’s commitment to listening to the consumer and always improving their supply chain. Lululemon is committed to improving the factories that they source from, and hold them to a high standard. The evolution of their down sourcing to meet welfare standards is a step they take in all facets of their supply chain to ensure their values are met.

While the practice of constant supply chain improvement is responsible and shows the organization’s compassion, it is also grants the company a way to market themselves above and beyond their competitors.

Through responsible supply chain management, Lululemon differentiates themselves from other manufacturers. While other company’s are solely profit driven, Lululemon strives to make a difference. They have taken advantage of this fact and have made it a staple in their marketing. Prominently displayed on their website, they go much farther into detail about their sustainable supply chain than most major athletic apparel companies. Using YouTube, they have created many videos illustrating their positive supply chain practices, and the difference they make with them. One video looks at a Lululemon factory in Sri Lanka. The video shows how the workers are treated much differently than a typical southeast Asian factory. Commenters on the video still had questions regarding the conditions in the factory. A long time employee responded

I worked for MAS for nearly 10 years, starting as a trainee designer and ended up as a head of Design – and let me tell you; it is NOT a sweat shop, and takes very good care of all it’s employees. As we are based in Sri Lanka, we may not meet the US minimum-wage, given the value of the dollar against the SL rupee – but these are not ‘sweat shop poverty jobs’. That in itself is a insult tho these people who take pride in what they do.

Just like data mining helps the company determine how to set costs, it helps them determine what is important to their customers. Research showed that customers had grown to appreciate Lululemon’s original practices, and when the company went public in 2007, they continued these efforts. Further, they often promote the social endeavours that they are working on via their extremely active Facebook page. From promoting healthier workplaces in their factories, to working with underprivileged African villages, the company shares these stories with the public.  Lululemon uses their platform to make a difference in the world, from their charitable work, to improving conditions in factories that they choose to work with.

Lessons for Others

Using social media to discover the values of potential customers is integral in creating a well functioning supply chain. Numerous times throughout history there have been examples of social media outrage over a link in a company’s supply chain, that the public did not like. This creates a public relations nightmare for the business, that can be hard to overcome. Lululemon designed their whole company around a core set of values that fall in line with their demographic. They use social media well to promote this strategy, and create a good rapport with customers who care about these issues. Even something as seemingly mundane as supply chain management can be used to create brand loyalty and, ultimately increase sales.

Organization: Lululemon
Industry: Fashion. Athletic Apparel, Retail
Name of Organization Contact: Bethie Lululemon Social Media Manager

Authored by: Jamie Hilts

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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