Water pollution, an unavoidable issue

Since 2009, Decathlon has been helping a panel of suppliers to minimise the pollution they generate by manufacturing their sports products. In 2015, the company expanded its scheme to involve more suppliers. By assessing production sites using both social and environmental criteria, Decathlon teams are keen to help suppliers improve their skills in the interests of global corporate social responsibility.

Many manufacturing processes used to make our products require water, which – once used – is generally discharged into the natural environment. Water is now a precious resource that is unevenly protected throughout the world. Decathlon has been working on this priority issue since 2014, with the aim of reducing contamination risks for local residents. We can also observe countries’ growing awareness of the issues surrounding this resource. That’s why we’re offering to help the suppliers concerned with a series of support solutions, designed to boost the quality and stability of our relations over time.

Key figures
« choosing sites »

In 2015, two criteria determined supplier eligibility for our support scheme:
– use of a manufacturing process with a high water pollution risk compared with other processes used to make Decathlon products, such as dyeing, tannery, washing and stonewashing, and surface treatments. We have around 400 such suppliers fitting this scenario.
– water treatment conducted on site with own in-house system, before discharging wastewater into the environment: 70 sites fall into this category.

These sites must now undertake to meet our quality criteria for wastewater, as stipulated in our specifications.

“This simple practical water pollution strategy has brought our production teams closer together in the interests of environmental management. We will be able to push ahead with this drive in order to tackle other types of pollution, such as soil and air pollution, extending it to include even more subcontractors.”

Jérémie Piolet
Jérémie Piolet
environment project manager

Mobilising and training teams in-house

Environmental assessments are conducted by internal assessors who have received training in audit and sampling techniques and in wastewater management skills.
As with working conditions, these assessments are conducted before embarking on any kind of business relationship, and are carried out at regular intervals.
Every 6 months in Bangladesh, every 5 years in Western Europe and Japan, every 2 years in other countries.

Controlling the quality of industrial water

Our specifications include 15 different parameters for testing, covering the key risks for local residents. Each parameter tested must comply with the strictest limit between that laid down by local regulations and that stipulated by Decathlon. To ensure compliance with these specifications, the auditor takes various treated water samples and sends them to an external laboratory. The results are then returned to the supplier within a fortnight. In the event of non-compliance with the specified limits, our on-site teams will help the supplier to correct the problem.

« Changes to our specifications governing wastewater »

Our specifications cover the main hazardous chemicals responsible for water pollution. From 2017, our specifications will refer to international wastewater quality standards defined by the World Bank*. Furthermore, we are monitoring the progress made by the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) working group, which is publicly financed, and involves certain hazardous substances. We will be studying the feasibility of integrating these substances into our specifications in 2017.

* World Bank Group Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines, www.ifc.org/ehsguidelines

Our priorities

In 2016, as well as results from tested water samples, we will pay particular attention to how the water treatment plant operates, as well as storage of sludge and hazardous waste that could raise the risk of soil pollution. The aim is to prevent sludge and hazardous waste leaching out when it rains.

In 2017, we hope to provide even better support, training and coaching to even more suppliers, and also to tackle the issues relating to air quality. This will depend on whether we can reinforce our SD in production teams on the ground, as close to our suppliers as possible.

Supporting progress

In 2015, teams identified a series of good practices and laid down the minimum requirements in terms of water quality. They summarised their observations in the audit grid introduced in 2015. This grid is linked to a survey and to a decision-making process.

If results do not meet the required standards (score E), the supplier has 6 months to identify the cause and correct the problem, with the help of our on-site teams. If the supplier is a new subcontractor, we refrain from going into business with them until compliance is achieved.