Picture of flowers in front of a Decathlon store

Biodiversity and DECATHLON

What is the link between our company and biodiversity? A lot more than you would imagine at first sight! We explain in full transparency.

The fauna, flora, air, water… What on earth does all this have to do with DECATHLON?
To be honest, it has everything to do with Decathlon. From creating our products to distributing and selling them in stores, the negative impact on biodiversity is permanent To better understand, let's go back to basics: what is biodiversity? What are the threats to it?And what are the consequences in the event of its decline?
Then we'll scrutinize DECATHLON's responsibility at different levels and the measures put in place. We shall shed light on this vast topic.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity relates to life, along with its habitat on our planet. We call these living habitats "ecosystems", whether they be aquatic, including marine, or terrestrial environments. In fact, the word refers to all the interactions between the fauna, flora and their natural environment. For example, think of the bees' role in pollination, allowing flowers to reproduce and agriculture to grow. The idea of biodiversity emerged in the 1980s, and its importance was officially recognised for the first time in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

It constitutes a global equilibrium, of which the climate is a part. It is quite simply essential to us human beings. Why? Because thanks to it, we can breathe, eat and drink. We also draw on these resources to extract raw materials, which allows us to produce and meet all our needs.We are, therefore, entirely dependant on it being in good health.

What are the threats to biodiversity? What are the consequences?

The 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) alerts: "1,000,000 species are threatened by extinction".
We can ask ourselves why and where are the threats to fauna and flora coming from? There are multiple sources, all of which are of human origin. According to this report, in order of importance in terms of impact, we find:

#1 Changes in the land and sea use:
It means the overuse of the ocean's resources and also the artificialisation of the land. Natural habitats eroded by urban sprawl. This phenomenon is leading to soil degradation. With the soil surfaces becoming sealed, it leads to erosion, more flooding — the land no longer capable of absorbing water — and the widespread use of concrete contributing to rising temperatures.
75 % of inland water is now intended for livestock farming and agriculture. There is also the construction of dams. The diversion of these different areas for human needs leaves less and less space for wildlife and diminishes the food chains.   

#2 Direct exploitation of organisms:
These include overfishing, overexploitation of forests or even agricultural production. The first does not allow for the renewal of species and subsequently harms their ecosystems. For the second and third, the decrease of wooded areas intensifies global warming.

#3 Climate change:
Its consequences are growing, and its influence on wildlife is expected to increase in the years to come. Rising temperatures lead to changes in the distribution of species in territories when they are not directly threatened. The resulting natural disasters or high temperatures variations mechanically influence life cycles. For example, fruit trees that bloom in February and then experience frost in May.

#4 Pollution:
Firstly the pollution of air, soil and water: whether it be chemical pollution, fertilizers, plastic… They not only have an impact on the environment but also on their inhabitants. Plastic is not only the cause of 400 dead zones in the oceans but also causes ill-health and even the demise of many living creatures that ingest it.
Then there is light and noise pollution, which also disturbs wildlife and forces them to change their habitat.

#5 Invasive alien species:
These invasive species are introduced by humans voluntarily or involuntarily and lead to the extinction of the local fauna and flora. Consequently, with less varied food resources, we witness a loss of diversity.

These 5 causes are resulting in the decline of nature and threaten Mankind itself. Just as the COP21 enabled to set targets for countries in terms of limiting global warming, biodiversity awaits the same legal framework. The COP15 biodiversity was postponed several times with the public health crisis and is expected to be held in China in 2022 to address this challenge.

What is biodiversity?

Why is DECATHLON taking action on biodiversity?

If biodiversity is in danger, so is the future of sports activities and our company. Moreover, we realise that manufacturing, transporting, using and distributing our products are dependant on biodiversity and affects it. That is why it is our duty to act.

If we realised the consequences of our activity on global warming, we've only recently done so concerning biodiversity. We've noticed this in the political and media arena: there is a 30-year lag between knowledge of climate change, revealed by the Meadows report in 1972, and that of the decline in biodiversity in Rio in 1992. It is also interesting to note the IPCC provided its first report on the climate back in 1990, and the IPBES in 2019.

On our side, despite starting late, we will now aim to be equal to the challenge. Antoine Lablée, in charge of the Biodiversity project at DECATHLON, explains:"We were initially in a phase of grasping the issue, then a second phase of exploring it, which let us determine the most relevant indicator for measuring the development of the biodiversity within the company's activities. Then with the help of calculations, we are currently attempting to set priorities steps to better act".

Decathlon Biodiversité_EN sten

What are DECATHLON's negative impacts in terms of biodiversity?

In short, there are two major areas where DECATHLON's activity has negative repercussions on biodiversity:

#1 The production of goods: Our responsibility mainly comes from products. Their life cycle not only contributes to global warming but also the depletion of the planet's resources. We aim to conduct the same actions on biodiversity as we've done on the carbon footprint by going, for example, to meet our suppliers.

#2 The stores: DECATHLON currently has 328 stores in France and even more around the world. The surface area that the group owns represents 14 million square metres, meaning 7 times the surface area of Monaco and as much in artificialised land. On this property side to our operations, even if it is less impactful on biodiversity than the first part, our responsibility is greater and more direct. We must subsequently be exemplary.

Measuring our debt towards biodiversity

It is vital to measure our negative impact, in other words, assess our biodiversity footprint just like you do for a carbon footprint, to prioritise and structure our action.The difference is, it is considered in debt terms. There is the concept of the past, which doesn't exist in the carbon footprint calculation. For example, the act of laying down tarmac on a surface then ceasing this activity does not regenerate biodiversity. When you stop emitting CO2, you effectively cease to do it more or less in the short term because the former is captured by photosynthesis.

For our biodiversity footprint, the measurement indicator selected in 2020 was the MSA.km² (or Mean Species Abundance), which means the average abundance of species per square kilometre. This unit was renamed in 2021 for ease of understanding and relevance. We have decided to focus our attention on the surface area occupation. DECATHLON's offset will be expressed in "artificialised km 2 equivalent", just like "Kg of CO2 equivalent" for the carbon footprint. Still, in the measurement phase, the expressed offset will enable us to precisely determine the priority areas of action.

Moreover, putting a cost to DECATHLON debt towards wildlife will enable us to have a frame of reference to find out if the implemented action plans increase, sustain or reduce it.

Picture of a Decathlon of a store with solar panels

How do we calculate this debt? 

We calculate the debt with the help of the Global Biodiversity Score (GBS) tool developed by a subsidiary of the French Deposits & Consignments Fund: CDC biodiversité. With this tool, companies, in particular, can draw up an inventory based on their flow of materials, such as water consumption, for example. The consumption of suppliers' different energy sources is taken into consideration. At the end of the calculation, it is all expressed in "equivalent artificialised km²".

Measuring the influence of DECATHLON stores

DECATHLON now wants to design layouts with a positive biodiversity impact. So before starting the construction of any new building, a site or a car park refurbishment, we carry out a diagnosis based on 74 biodiversity criteria.

The following, in particular, are taken into account:
- ecological continuity,
- water resources,
- plant-based density,
- light pollution,
- the climate,
- quality of life.

At the end of this assessment, the diagnosis lets us determine a rating ranging from 0 to 100. The minimum acceptable standard is 50/100 because we estimate that at this threshold the requirements are met to let wildlife move around, feed and reproduce freely. 

On the first experimental site of Saint-Malo (France), the initial diagnosis before the works was 42/100, 3 years later it is 79/100. These adjustments, therefore, met the conditions allowing wildlife to flourish properly.

Biodiversity at the heart of Saint-Jouan-Des-Guérêts store

Biodiversity and DECATHLON

What are the positive repercussions in Saint-Jouan-Des-Guérêts? 

The Saint-Jouan-des-Guérêts pilot site, close to Saint-Malo (France), enables us to put a certain number of replicable principles in place to support biodiversity for any future store.

The first principle: limit the damage of urbanisation by investing, for example, in uncultivated land or monoculture farmland. Followed then by these other objectives: transform, prevent, reduce and compensate.

The founding principle is to support ecological corridors along the lines of 4 strategies:
The green template: it promotes the movement and habitats of species, with unfenced land, late summer cutting, as well as a density and variety of flora. In this way, animals are free to move around, feed, reproduce and hide among the vegetation, nest boxes or bug hotels placed around the plot of land. The vegetation helps to filter pollutants (carbon sequestration) and create cooling island effects. 175 plant species (trees, fruit trees, shrubs) were planted in Saint-Jouan, compared to 20 previously.
The blue template: here, it is a case of combating soil surface sealing and reducing the speed of surface water runoff, which improves rainwater management. The vegetated ditch and infiltration basin are actual wetland habitat area, allowing aquatic wildlife to flourish. They also limit the risk of flooding and help to contribute to groundwater recharge.
The brown template: 25 % of diversity is found in the soils. In the same vein, the challenge was to preserve continuity in the subsoil to support the development of fungus and bacteria. If the soil is not aerated, the green template can't be in good condition either. It is why we maintain the area with conservation grazing. A herd of sheep grazing on the plot of land is preferable to using a heavy-duty lawn mower that packs down the earth.
The black template: this is about preserving nocturnal fauna. We revamped the lighting to cause the least possible hindrance. It translates into downward-facing lighting, equipped with sensors that turn on when there is traffic.We have also thought of bat boxes

Lastly, we installed 2 beehives, meaning a population of 120,000 bees. They are a good indicator of the naturalness of the site and its surroundings. In Saint-Jouan, they produced 22 kg of honey, when, on average, 3.5 kg is expected elsewhere. It not only means that no phytosanitary products are used in the surrounding area but on top of that, their ecosystem is sufficiently varied because they have very little distance to cover, enabling them to retrieve more pollen and subsequently produce more honey.

We carried out similar adjustments on the site in Lorient (France), and 14 projects are in progress in line with this same approach. The objective, just like the first two projects, is to get the "Signature Biodiversité" label, environmental certification for 100 % of our future new property construction projects in France. This landscaping company provides guidance and supervises companies wanting to facilitate environmental performance in their project, from the programme's initial inception to the implementation of measures.

Picture of plants in front a Decathlon store

What measures has DECATHLON put in place in favour of biodiversity?

We have set out our objectives for the next 2 coming years. We, first of, all want to renature 10 % of DECATHLON's French property.

Then our priority is to reinforce our teams' skills relating to water consumption: the quantities used in manufacturing and their treatment, the increasing scarcity of this natural resource and the impact of factories on biodiversity.

Moreover, to be able to respond more globally to the challenges linked to biodiversity, DECATHLON is getting involved in a certain number of approaches and surrounding itself with experts to help it gain expertise on this issue: 

Companies invested in nature

In 2020 February, DECATHLON signed the 10 principles of the "Companies invested in nature — act4nature France" initiative, such as:
Integrate biodiversity in our company strategy,
Open dialogue with all our stakeholders about our impact and our measures,
assess the different biodiversity components that concern us,
firstly prevent, reduce and lastly provide compensation for our impacts,
publicly report back on our actions plans, etc.

This initiative by the French biodiversity agency (OFB) brought together 38 companies in December 2019, joining in with a programme of continuous improvement in favour of the preservation of biodiversity. We are talking about measuring the pressure we put on biodiversity, identifying our priorities, and drawing up our aims in this area. With our biodiversity protection action plan now delivered, the next step to come is: the audit of our results for 2023.

To go further

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