Picture of workers in a factory

Chemical hazards in manufacturing -
ZDHC program

Chemical products, from plastic to clothing, including packaging, are at the centre of manufacturing.So how can we reduce the hazards?

Out of 33 million chemical substances, approximately 2000 are regulated. Why? Because they are harmful to people or the environment. Chemical products, from plastic to clothing, including packaging, are at the centre of manufacturing our products.So how can we prevent the risks?Let's take stock.

What is a chemical hazard? 

Chemical pollution is the product of artificial or natural substances that are hazardous to people or their environment (for example, hormone disruptors: bisphenols, pesticides, etc.). They can cause short-term visible reactions, such as allergies. But also have invisible longer-term effects: threatening our hormonal system and leading to illnesses.

The pollution can also be environmental. We find these in nature as a result of industrial chemical waste. Once in the water, the air or the soil, these toxic elements can impact biodiversity and, subsequently, us.

How does product design create a chemical hazard?

A t-shirt can have a colour, have prints, be water repellent... All these features come from chemical treatments. If most of the substances used are safe, it is however imperative to check the integrity at every stage (at the time of production, for the workers, when wastewater is released into the environment, at the time of storage, for Decathlon teams, when the product is being used by customers...).

If a substance has to be removed, it has to be done throughout the value chain.

Picture of a men in a factory

How can we prevent these risks?

At Decathlon, the Quality team is doing a toxic and legal watch to better understand the worldwide chemicals requirements to define the playground for the suppliers. They monitor as well the production of new chemical substances.

Based on this work, they produce chemical specifications also call RSL: Restricted Substances List, that suppliers undertake to comply with. They train them in making best use of them. After which, checks are carried out on location in the factories or directly on the products.

Decathlon’s products are tested in third part laboratories to ensure they do not contain hazardous substances, a strong control is implemented to guarantee the compliance with the RSL.
Moreover, to go further, Decathlon’s provide to suppliers trainings to help them to understand better the requirements on chemicals management.

Helping suppliers manage chemical risk

At Decathlon, product safety is crucial. As in all production- related processes, chemical risk management is controlled across the board, with the objective of ensuring supplier autonomy by raising their level of competence in this area.
Supplier training is led by the country production and industrial processes teams. The training is provided by trainer  directly on the filed to improve the chemical risk management system in the plants, at the product, employee and environmental levels. After the training, workers are skilled on three main parts: Validation of chemicals, safe manipulation of chemicals and the management of hazardous wastes.

At the end 2022, we comptabilise 273 suppliers trained on the management of chemicals in factory.

From this assessment was initiated the ZDHC project: zero discharge of hazardous chemical substances.

"Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical" programme is a foundation of 170 contributors: clothing and footwear manufacturers, chemical producers or NGOs. What is the objective? Achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals into the environment. In essence, bring about change on the suppliers' side. DECATHLON officially became part of this on the 14th of January 2022.
To achieve the ambition, the program “Roadmap to Zero” helps brands to implement sustainable chemical management best practices such as guidelines, training, platforms and solutions across their whole value chain. For our customers, it's the assurance we are taking action to make the world safer.

The foundation brings us the skills and tools to better manage hazards in production. We also provide our expertise on the subject. For our customers, it's the assurance we are taking action to make the world safer.

Our commitment to ZDHC program

Decathlon SE  commits to support the ZDHC Mission to enable the textile, apparel, leather and footwear industries to implement sustainable chemical management best practice across the value chain. Through collaborative engagement, standard setting, and implementation, ZDHC Foundation will advance towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC Mission). Company commits to support the ZDHC Foundation Vision of the widespread implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovations and best practices in textile, apparel, and footwear industries to protect consumers, workers and the environment (ZDHC Vision).

Decathlon commitment towards ZDHC applies to the whole group (including individual brands within Decathlon) linked with ZDHC scope: Textile, Leather, Apparel and Footwear.
By consequence, all facilities working with Decathlon involved in the manufacturing of Textile, Leather, Apparel or Footwear are required to implement the “supplier’s requirements” whatever the factory is a component and finished-good producer.
Decathlon adopts the complete ZDHC MRSL & ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines, and fully commits with ZDHC CMS (Chemical Management System), TIG (Technical Industry Guide) & MMCF (Man Made Cellulosic Fibers).
Decathlon commits to participate and engage in the creation, development, testing, improvement and joint implementation of ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme (ZDHC Programme) , guidelines, tools, solutions and initiatives that advance the ZDHC Mission and ZDHC Vision.

Our roadmap to Zero:

Decathlon must reach the highest level in terms of chemical management by 2026.

Graph of Decathlon roadmap Zero Program

From foundational to progressive: we pass our second Brand to zero assessment

Every year a report based on Kpi and metrics, is produced by a third party assessor (KPMG). The aim is to measure the level of implementation of the ZDHC roadmap inside each brand's supply chain.

We did not think it was possible to level up in one year but we did it!
Progressive level means we successfully implemented ZDHC roadmap (guidelines, trainings, platforms & solutions) in our supply chain and started to achieve minimum performance in each program.

Connexion with our suppliers:

To evaluate our progress towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, it is necessary to collect data from our suppliers: Which chemicals are they using ? How do they manage the risks ? What is the quality of the water released ?
To do so, we use the ZDHC official platform called GATEWAY that connects us to our suppliers and enable us to access to the data.
In 2022, we achieved to connect with 215 suppliers on the platform and we are now collecting data.

% of connection on the platform with our suppliers: 57% (at the end of 2022).

The ZDHC program:

The Roadmap to Zero Programme is organized into three focus areas which are interlinked to improve chemical management.

- Input
Chemicals used in the supply chain are constantly checked, and non-verified chemicals are progressively substituted by safer alternatives to ensure ZDHC MRSL conformance.

At the end of 2022, we count 80,89% of conformance for the incoming chemicals used in our supply chain and we will continue our work to reach 100%.

- Process
Guidelines & trainings guide suppliers to implement the best Chemical Management System in the factory. Suppliers are trained on chemical management in plant, ensuring good procedures and best practices are in place to reduce their environmental impact

- Output
Wastewater, sludges & air are analysed to ensure that any rejects from the factory will not impact the natural environment: clean water, safe air, no soil contamination…

Concrete examples

Keep dry and in good health… PFC free!

We are nearly there: during the course of 2023, products sold in stores will no longer contain perfluorocarbon (PFC). Widely used in industry, these substances are found in water-repellent materials: jackets, shoes, swimwear... What's the problem? They are compounds referred to as "forever" chemicals that are very persistent in the environment and whose accumulation in the body can lead to health problems. For several years, different teams have been working on the goal to replace them and they are gradually being substituted. While tents and backpacks have made good progress, there still remains a lot of work to do on jackets and trousers.

Why? It's not easy finding alternatives that are as resistant to machine washing!

Picture of a woman on a paddleboard

Inflating 'Toluene-free' stand-up paddles

At DECATHLON, kayak and stand-up paddle manufacturing is toluene-free since 2022. What is it? It is a solvent in the glue used to assemble plastic layers of inflatable products. 

What's the issue? Over time this substance can alter men's eyesight and fertility. In factories, compulsory protective eyewear was not always being used by workers. So the gluehad to be improved or withdrawn. The teams in charge of the process, after the approval of toxicologists, suggested a new glue reference to manufacturers. They are free to choose between it or select another product so long as it is guaranteed to be free of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substances (CMR).

The project's additional benefit: some manufacturers and competitors review their practices and give it a try. And what if our teams' impetus leads to 100 % of the stand-up paddle market being Toluene free within 2 years?

Ban Phthalates Use in our Products

Phthalates encompass many esters of phthalic acid. Phthalates are incorporated into plastics to improve durability, flexibility, and transparency. Phthalates are typically mixed into polymers as an external plasticizer with no chemical bonding. As a result, phthalates may migrate out of the material, resulting in exposure to people or the environment.

For example, inflatable Standup paddles are generally made in PVC and require the use of a plasticiser, such as phthalates, to get a flexible and durable material.
As a matter of health and environment impact, Decathlon, as AFIRM4, bans the use of 24 ortho-Phthalates substances6 from all our articles, at very low concentrations (500 ppm individual substances, 1000 ppm total) to follow regulations, ensure low health risk and ensure no presence in our processes in factories.

Itiwit in collaboration with the Welding Process, has eliminated the 24 ortho-phthalates, including the DINP from all their stand up paddles and kayaks.

LEAD restriction in fishing & hunting products

Lead substance is very hazardous for humans and the environment. Long term risk of exposition to lead induce impact on reproduction and children development. Besides that, it is very toxic for the environment from very low concentrations.

An uncompromising approach to cleaning up wastewater

When "manufacturing pollution" is mentioned, CO2 quickly comes to mind. However, water made unfit for consumption due to chemical pollution can immediately impact humans health and the environment. DECATHLON's Sustainable Development teams have been raising awareness among suppliers and reinforcing checks. Some manufacturing steps make intensive use of chemical products: dyeing, tanning, and paper mills...

Regular tests are therefore required to ensure the treated water discharged from the factory is cleaned up and usable for agriculture. Exceeding the standards, means exposing yourself to suspending production and putting a stop to shipments.
117 suppliers were audited in 2021 in line with our environmental compliance checklist. These are aligned with ZDHC standards, which are more stringent than regulations in force.

To find out more about production topics

Picture workers in manufacture

Our manufacturing responsabilities

At DECATHLON, we design our products. To this end, we are also at the origin of their production. In other words, we put in place a large-scale manufacturing system to make these products available all over the world and in larger volumes. As a result of this activity, we have a responsibility: respecting the rights of the people manufacturing our products, and limiting our activity's environmental impact. These measures are put in place both globally and locally among people living in the area surrounding our production factories.

Picture of a workers in manufactoring factory

The production and manufacturing of Decathlon products

Issues linked to manufacturing raise plenty of questions, which is entirely normal:we reveal all here.

Committed to preventing the disposal of products and components

Committed to preventing the disposal of products and components

The value chain's sustainable development strategy leader, Céline Crouzat's testimonial.