Lululemon Charity Pact With Dalai Lama Draws Fire

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AP/Getty

Lululemon has landed in hot water after announcing a charitable partnership linking the Canadian retailer with Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

The Vancouver-based yoga apparel maker announced a deal with the Tibetan spiritual leader this week — the chain will donate $750,000 over the next three years to the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.

"Both organizations share a common vision for developing the next generation of compassionate leaders in the world and are committed to engaging and empowering healthy communities," the company said in a release.

Beyond funding support, the announcement was short on details on what, exactly, the two entities are pledging to do together, with the CEO of the centre saying in the release "We are grateful for the support from lululemon to engage our community and look forward to working together to promote 'education of the heart,' which results in more peaceful, secure, engaged and compassionate children."

On social media, many people accused the yoga chain of trying to piggyback on the popularity of the Dalai Lama for its own corporate purposes.

On its website, the centre acknowledges it welcomes corporate sponsorships from time to time, and relies on those arrangements for funding its activities.

"The DLC also negotiates corporate sponsorships, which offer the Center the opportunity to engage and collaborate with socially responsible businesses to fulfill its mission and enable such businesses to obtain recognition and other promotional benefits," the website reads.

Criticism of move

But that's small comfort to some who don't like the Dalai Lama's name being associated with a corporate entity — especially one that has made a few missteps in recent years.

"Not sure I believe that the purpose of the Dalai Lama and corporate marketing should ever go hand in hand," Elizabeth Young said on the centre's Facebook page, commenting on a post announcing the pact.

"I can only hope that this means they will be taking their company's marketing, prices, and message in a new direction over the next year," Liz Dion said in the same thread.

In 2013, Lululemon was criticized for a fiasco involving luon pants — some users said the garment could sometimes be see-through.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson made the crisis worse in an interview last year when he implied that part of the problem with the pants was that women with larger body types were wearing them improperly.

"I think the Dhali lama center should explain why they chose the company to partner with, considering the past issues," Danielle Warner Lewis said on the centre's Facebook page.

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