lululemon’s Sustainable Action Towards Racial Equity

by Savoy Staff

By Stacia Marie Jones, Esq., Vice President, Global Head of IDEA, lululemon

Racial inequity is not new, at least not for the historically excluded masses for whom prejudice is the norm. In 2020, the world experienced a conflation of several factors that each alone had the power to disproportionally impact vulnerable communities and strengthen systemic bias. The culmination ignited a firestorm of volatile and unprecedented attention.

Just consider some of what occurred: ongoing friction between Blacks and law enforcement; inequity in medical care; polarizing views seeping into every aspect of life; disproportionate unemployment; and chaos resulting from injustice realized but repeatedly disregarded.

Against this backdrop, many corporations reacted publicly. Indeed, they abandoned their long silence to hashtag Black Lives Matter, sent their leaders into the streets to march alongside employees chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” and proclaimed promises for equity.

The doubtful rightfully worried that corporations’ reactions were merely performative activism, citing instances of waning passion and disinterest in the months after climatic events ignite renewed focus on justice. Indubitably, the worried wait anxiously for the next “thing” that redirects corporate resources from diversity and inclusion (D&I) to something “more pressing.”

Proving the doubtful wrong, D&I programs rooted in authentic commitment and tangible action will be sustained and demonstrate that actions in 2020 were not just compelled, reactive performance.  Rather, these D&I programs are the beginning of an enduring pledge to the power and beauty of difference.

lululemon started its D&I journey before 2020 and renewed its commitment last spring as its leaders listened to employees’ and guests’ reactions to the traumatic and momentous events of 2020. Leadership galvanized around its people and collective, committing to action that impacts equity at lululemon and beyond.

The D&I work at lululemon is IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action. There is bias towards action within the company that can be contagious and build momentum quickly, and that has been especially true in the work of IDEA.  lululemon has created a sustainable program that reaches beyond opportunistic, in-the-moment activism. Notable components include:

  • Commitment from the top. The heart of lululemon’s IDEA work starts with the CEO, Calvin McDonald, who actively connects with the company’s racialized employees through regular listening sessions. He consistently welcomes the opportunity to learn what he can do better, and expects no less of his senior leadership.
  • Dedicated resources. lululemon committed to form an IDEA team with nearly 20 employees, a dedicated budget of $5 million per year, and an additional $3 million towards its social impact program, Here To Be. Additionally, the company has committed to invest $75 million to advance equity in wellbeing in our global and local communities by 2025. As the IDEA team began to grow, action did not wait and instead brought together four advisory committees, an executive steering committee, several task forces, and more than 11 work streams dedicated to IDEA. Additionally, Employee Resource Groups were established and funded, as well as global internship and mentorship programs to launch in 2021.
  • Company-wide impact. IDEA’s core function is to integrate into every part of lululemon: the global teams and employment practices; the total guest experience, including product and marketing; business partners, including Ambassadors and vendors; and the community, both in outreach and impact. Leadership’s vision is that IDEA and the business become indistinguishable.
  • An in-depth review. To foster equity and inclusion, the IDEA team has the space to review the entire company for, and address, instances of institutional bias. The launch of the comprehensive practice, policy and process review coincides with lululemon’s first global demographic survey, the results of which will help guide the work to increase diversity throughout the company.
  • Real accountability. Inclusion is a core value at lululemon that everyone in the company practices living, every day. IDEA is dedicated to transparency and a consistent dialogue with employees and guests, opening lululemon to accountability for its IDEA program, commitments and initiatives.

lululemon does not have a perfect history on IDEA; not many companies do. It is, however, actioning to implement a sustained D&I strategy that will positively impact lululemon at every level; providing for its employees and guests an inclusive environment in which all can thrive.



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