Lululemon Athletica Inc. made an equity investment in sustainable materials firm Genomatica as part of a multi-year collaboration to bring renewably sourced, bio-based materials into its product assortment.

The move represents its first equity investment in a sustainable materials company and Genomatica’s largest partnership in the retail industry. In working together, the companies plan to create lower-impact, plant-based nylon to replace conventional nylon, which is the largest volume of synthetic material currently used to make Lululemon products.

Lululemon said Genomatica uses biotechnology and fermentation to convert plant-based ingredients into widely used chemical building blocks, like those used to make nylon, that are then converted to pellets and yarns. The companies will be working with Lululemon’s fabric supply chain to use the material in future products.

Calvin McDonald, CEO, Lululemon said, “Our partnership with and investment in Genomatica demonstrates our commitment to be a leader in creating products that help build a healthier future for ourselves, for our communities and for our planet. Genomatica’s bio-based innovations, along with their distinctive track record of successful commercial applications, will help us deliver on our Impact Agenda goals to make 100 percent of our products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030 as we move toward a circular ecosystem.”

“We are proud to partner with Lululemon, a company that is taking meaningful action to help address our climate crisis,” said Christophe Schilling, CEO, Genomatica. “The combination of biotechnology, fermentation and renewable feedstocks can provide a powerful means to disrupt the apparel industry through sustainable sourcing. This unique collaboration will help meet increasing consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products and set an example for consumer brand owners worldwide.”

Patty Stapp, VP, Raw Materials, Lululemon, said, “Replacing the petrochemicals that make up many popular materials with more sustainable alternatives is a major step forward reaching our Impact Agenda goals. By transitioning our nylon to renewable content, we will impact over half of the synthetic materials we use in our supply chain. We have seen Genomatica repeatedly and successfully deliver industry-changing bio-based materials at commercial scale and are confident this partnership can truly change the way we source products while continuing to provide the exceptional quality we are known for.”

In October 2020, Lululemon released its Impact Agenda, outlining its social and environmental goals and multi-year strategies toward an equitable, sustainable and healthy future. The collaboration with Genomatica is one way the brand is bringing new, sustainable innovation to its raw materials. Other examples include its partnership with Mylo, to use a mycelium-based leather, and LanzaTech, for polyester made using recycled carbon emissions.

Photo courtesy Genomatica