Athletic apparel company lululemon athletica announced the launch of two new high-performance shirts, its first-ever products to be made using renewably sourced, plant-based nylon, in the place of nylon made from fossil fuels.

The launch follows nearly two years of collaboration with sustainable materials-focused biotechnology company Genomatica (Geno), announced in August 2021 alongside an equity investment by lululemon in the company, to bring renewably sourced biobased materials into its product lines.

San Diego-based Geno develops and scales sustainable materials derived from plant or waste-based feedstocks instead of fossil fuels. The company uses biotechnology and fermentation to convert plant-based ingredients into chemical building blocks, similar to those used to make nylon. Additional initiatives launched by Geno include a $120 million venture launched last year with consumer brands company Unilever, which has also been joined by L’Oréal and Kao Corporation.

Christophe Schilling, CEO and Founder of Geno, said:

“Together with lululemon, Geno is opening a new chapter for plant-based nylon and accelerating the sustainable materials transition. We’re proud that this partnership is disrupting the $22 billion dollar nylon market, and with lululemon, we will be accelerating the sustainable materials transition at scale – and this is only the beginning.”

The development of circular products with more sustainable materials forms a significant part of lululemon’s efforts to achieve its environmental sustainability goals, which include 2030 targets to make 100% of its products with sustainable materials, and to reduce emissions intensity across its global supply chain by 60%.

Approximately 70% of the apparel and footwear industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from upstream activities, including materials production and processing. Nylon is lululemon’s largest procured material by weight, representing 37% of materials used in its products in 2021. As part of its sustainable materials goals, lululemon has set targets to launch alternative nylon solutions by 2025, and to source 100% renewable or recycled content nylon for its products by 2030.

Lululemon’s 2022 Impact Report indicated that it is also working with Geno on plant source and traceability to optimize the overall environmental benefits from plant-based nylon.

Esther Speck, Senior Vice President, Global Sustainable Business and Impact at lululemon, said:

“We’ve been working on plant-based nylon with our partner Geno for almost two years, testing ways to integrate this groundbreaking material with our product philosophy of creating products to help our guests feel their best. The launch of our first plant-based nylon products is an example of lululemon’s environmental commitments in action, and what’s to come on our journey toward net zero.”

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