This weekend, a small group of lululemon executives, writers and activists will gather for a public conversation on spiritual values and corporate responsibility at the Yoga Journal NYC conference. The Saturday, April 26 public conversation is free and capped at 100, and pre-event registration indicates that the event is sold out.
Admittedly, “face off” is a bit misleading (couldn’t resist the linkbait; also, I’ve been watching too much hockey lately). With skillful facilitation by Seane Corn and Hala Khouri, the “Circle of Dialogue” will likely be respectful and honest. But this is the first time that lululemon CEO, Laurent Potdevin, will come face-to-face with longstanding lululemon critic and author Carol Horton, former ambassador Alanna Kaivalya, and NYC-based activist Leslie Booker of the Lineage Project.
While the conversation is public, there is also an air of secrecy around it, with very little information available online. Kerry Maiorca at elephant journal asked the question that we’ve all been thinking: “Will lululemon use this critical feedback to consider the impact of their business and marketing decisions, or is this just another marketing stunt and PR grab?” Maiorca went on to make four sound suggestions that lululemon could take if they wish to stay relevant and walk their talk.
Panelist Alanna Kaivalya, however, made a little noise with a recent Huffington Post article, only to be chastised by Yoga Journal’s Communications Director. “Yoga has it’s OWN value system, thankyouverymuch,” Kaivalya declared, in an effort to draw out stories from disillusioned lululemon consumers. “And, it is these values of doing no harm, speaking as truthfully as possible and not taking what we don’t need that make yoga folk such nice folk. It’s time us nice folk put our foot down and say, ‘No more, Lulu.’ And, this is exactly what I’m prepared to say to Mr. Potdevin (who’s name in French means “bribe”) when I meet him at the panel.”
In response, Dayna Macy from YJ commented, “…you sound like you have have made up your mind before the event has even taken place. Lululemon has made serious missteps in the past but it is for that very reason they are opening up a forum to the public. As someone who works at Yoga Journal, I respect that they are open to all questions, and that makes me interested in hearing what they actually have to say.”
We’re all interested in hearing what lululemon has to say. And more importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that this company reflects the values of the community it has somehow ended up representing.