Cotton at Decathlon

At Decathlon, we have been designing and manufacturing our own label products (including textiles, shoes, bikes, sports equipment, accessories and nutritional, electronic and optical products) since 1986. We use cotton in our textile products in proportions equal to those of the market (around 30%). This raw material has considerable impacts on society and the environment, so it is an important issue for us, and explains why we’ve been committed to a responsible purchasing strategy for several years now.

Our aim
« 100% of cotton from more sustainable sources (BCI, organic or recycled) by 2020 »

To help reduce the environmental impacts of conventional cotton production and to improve social conditions, Decathlon is continuing its efforts to use responsibly sourced raw materials. We have therefore decided to pursue the adoption of three types of more sustainable cotton:

Our commitment to three types of more sustainable cotton:

Organic cotton: In 2006 we began using organically grown cotton, a small market that currently accounts for just 0.4% of the world’s cotton production. At the moment, we use it mainly for our yoga-related ranges, such as leggings, Capri pants and T shirts.

Recycled cotton: Recycled cotton still poses technical issues for manufacturers, who are struggling to develop systems capable of recycling used or end-of-life clothing. We are heavily involved in the efforts of ADEME (the French environment and energy management agency) to support research in this area, in partnership with a consortium of French manufacturers, and concentrating on two specific avenues: the recycling of industrial waste and the recycling of used clothing.

Better Cotton Initiative: Since 2012 we have been supporting the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), whose good practice guidelines are designed to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional cotton farming, and which incorporate a broad social component.

Focus: The Gujarat project

“Together with the NGO Solidaridad*, we took part in a three-year agronomic project involving 5,000 farmers in the Indian state of Gujarat. This has seen the installation of new infrastructures for harvesting and storing rainwater, and drip irrigation,” explains Nagy Bensid, natural yarns and fibres process leader. Farmers were trained to adopt natural fertilisers (such as compost and manure) and to minimise their use of pesticides. They were then introduced to good practices aimed at keeping them safe and healthy, and ensuring compliance with decent working conditions. The experience gained as a result of this project has strengthened our resolve to roll out BCI cotton on a wider scale.

We feel that using BCI cotton to supplement organic cotton and recycled cotton is the ideal solution to help us gradually replace the use of conventional cotton. To do this, at the end of 2015, we made a commitment that all our textile products would be made using 100% sustainably sourced cotton (BCI, organic or recycled) by 2020. Currently, at the end of August 2017, 25% of our cotton is sustainably sourced.


What is Decathlon doing to improve its cotton sourcing?
Its approach is threefold:

· To gradually replace conventional cotton in Decathlon products with more responsibly sourced cotton, such as BCI, recycled cotton and organic cotton.

· To abide by a code of conduct formalising requirements governing the working conditions, human rights and environmental respect implemented by their suppliers, and to conduct regular inspections and assessments of these suppliers. This code also prohibits forced labour and the purchasing of cotton from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

· To play an active role in the efforts of international institutions (OECD, Directorate of European and International Affairs, etc.) aiming to define good practices for the textile industry. Please refer to our 2016 sustainable development report, pages 16 and 17.
Why does Decathlon support the BCI initiative?
In order to help minimise our environmental impact, improve social conditions and control where our cotton comes from, we feel that extending our use of BCI cotton to supplement organic cotton and recycled cotton is a good way to ensure that we gradually replace our use of conventional cotton.

As we've seen with the Gujarat project, the BCI system makes for better water consumption management, more selective use of chemicals, and improved working conditions.

The Better Cotton Standard System is currently based on a “mass balance” traceability system, the aim of which is to encourage cotton trading and help develop agricultural practices that are in line with BCI standards.
We are keen to reinforce this scheme to bring about a more targeted system of traceability. In the absence of alternative, more effective processes at the moment, however, we have chosen to support this particular initiative, like many other companies committed to this voluntary scheme.

Comme le projet Gujarat l’a montré, le système BCI permet une meilleure gestion de la consommation d’eau, une utilisation plus raisonnée des produits chimiques et une amélioration des conditions de travail.

Le Better Cotton Standard System est pour le moment basé sur un système de traçabilité “mass balance” dont le but est de favoriser les échanges commerciaux de coton et de soutenir le développement des pratiques agricoles aux normes BCI.
Nous sommes en faveur d’un renforcement du dispositif afin de garantir une traçabilité plus ciblée. Mais à défaut d’autre processus plus performant à ce jour, nous soutenons cette initiative comme grand nombre d’enseignes engagées dans ce programme volontaire .
What are Decathlon’s obligations to its suppliers?
In 2003, in a bid to make our supplier partnerships work more efficiently, we drew up a social charter that was then signed by both parties, with the supplier being assessed on site before any business relationship could begin. If the results of these assessments fail to meet our requirements, we are unable to conclude any business agreements.
Our social charter is based on the basic principles of the universal declaration of human rights, the fundamental conventions of the ILO, and the social responsibility standard SA 8000. It sets out our 8 criteria in terms of working conditions:
no children on site.
no forced labour.
a safe and healthy working environment.
no discrimination.
no abusive disciplinary practices.
compliance with working hours.
respect for employees.
internal HR management key in terms of compliance with our charter.

Suppliers are then subject to regular assessments: every 6 months in Bangladesh and Cambodia, every 5 years in Western Europe and Japan, and every 2 years in all other countries.

So that we can provide our suppliers with the best possible support in this scheme, we have over 1,600 Decathlon employees, allocated to 39 different Decathlon production offices, in charge of monitoring production in a total of 49 countries.

After analysing the global risks identified in our supply chain over the last fourteen years, we revised our social charter in 2017 so as to incorporate new international issues and broaden its remit to include environmental and social challenges. Decathlon’s new code of conduct has tightened up on:

- respect for human rights in the workplace (with the emphasis on promoting decent wages and the fight against modern slavery);
- hygiene and safety conditions (where building safety and electrical safety constitute key themes in certain countries);
- environmental management of production sites;
- chemicals management;
- the fight against un-declared outsourcing;
- the fight against corruption;
- the origins and manufacturing conditions of raw materials (including cotton, wool and leather, among others);
- respect for animal welfare.
What is Decathlon’s stance on cotton from Central Asia?
Following revelations on forced labour practices in Uzbekistan during 2005 and 2006 (exposed by NGOs such as the IRLF and the Environmental Justice Foundation, among others), our suppliers were required, from 2007, to sign a letter of commitment prohibiting the use of cotton from Uzbekistan in our products.

Our new code of conduct, distributed in 2017, also prohibits cotton from Turkmenistan as well as Uzbekistan.

Find out more:

Decathlon and responsibility in production (2017)

Decathlon 2016 Sustainable Development Report

Video: Decathlon and the BCI strategy (2014)

Website for the French environment and energy management agency (ADEME):

The Solidaridad cotton initiative (in English):

Better Cotton Initiative (in English):