Athletic apparel company lululemon athletica announced that it has made an equity investment in sustainable materials company Genomatica, launching a multi-year collaboration aimed at developing lower-impact, plant-based nylon to replace petrochemical-based nylon used in lululemon’s products.

San Diego-based Genomatica 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.

Nylon makes up the largest volume of synthetic material currently used to make lululemon products. The companies stated that they will work closely with lululemon’s fabric supply chain to incorporate the new material into 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% of our products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030, as we move toward a circular ecosystem.”

The new collaboration marks lululemon’s first equity investment in a sustainable materials company and Genomatica’s largest partnership within the retail industry. Through the collaboration, the companies aim to help build more sustainable supply chains for the $22B global nylon market.

Christophe Schilling, CEO, Genomatica, said:

“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, added:

“Replacing the petrochemicals that make up many popular materials with more sustainable alternatives is a major step forward in 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.”