Product, Service & Design Innovation
Decathlon Plans to Use Eco-Design, Labeling to Reduce Product Impact by 20% Per Year

Product-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represented 74 percent of sports retailer Decathlon’s total emissions in 2015. With a new goal to stabilize its emissions by 2019, the company estimates it will need to reduce product-related impacts by 20 percent per year if it is to meet its target. Decathlon says its design teams have taken up the challenge and are progressively integrating environmental criteria into the quality-price combination of all of its products.

The retailer’s latest sustainability report details its commitments for 2015-2019 and the strategies it will take to address five key areas:

  • Team member happiness at work through responsibility and diversity, with a focus on training and projects promoting equality and diversity within the company;
  • Decent work and economic growth, including improving the working conditions provided by subcontractors;
  • Fight against climate change, with a new commitment to stabilize emissions to 5.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by 2019;
  • Clean water and sanitation, carrying out inspections of subcontractors’ water management; and
  • Responsible production and consumption, particularly in terms of cotton use, with a new commitment to use only sustainably produced cotton by 2020.

The emissions target is based on the company’s emissions in 2014, and the estimated reductions necessary have been calculated with its growth projections in mind. Decathlon claims it has been conducting annual assessments to measure its GHG across its entire value chain since 2007; it uses the standard GHG protocol methodology launched by the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) and WRI (World Resources Institute), and consolidates the data from scopes 1 to 3.

2015’s assessment found that the company’s products accounted for the vast majority (74 percent) of emissions, taking into account raw materials extraction, production, use, and end of life of both the company’s Passion brands products and products of other international brands. Customer travel (14 percent), product transportation (5 percent), site construction and operation (5 percent) and employee travel (2 percent) were all relatively minor in comparison.

Decathlon readily acknowledges its uphill battle to accomplish annual 20 percent reductions. The company’s emissions increased by 16 percent from 2014 to 2015 – a total of about 6 million tonnes of CO2e – which it says is running in parallel to its economic growth. That is not to say that the company did not achieve some emissions reductions between 2014 and 2015; it successfully reduced its emissions in France by 6 percent thanks to constructing more energy-efficient stores, and from product transportation by 3 percent thanks to optimizing loading for product containers between European warehouses. At the same time, Decathlon’s report states in bold type, “We are aware that considerable efforts are still required in order to stabilise our impact.”

Thus, the company has undertaken four major strategies for eco-design to reduce the impact of its products:

  1. The development of recycled materials: plastics, cardboard, cotton, polyester, etc.;
  2. The listing of renewable materials;
  3. The choice of innovative processes to reduce water consumption or water pollution during the manufacturing of products; and
  4. The replacement of PVC in its products.

An exemplary water management initiative was the development of new dying processes in partnership with subcontractors, including “Dope Dyed” in 2014 and “Supercritical CO2” (or Process “Dry Dyed©”) in 2015. The latter is a closed-loop process that makes it possible to dye an article of clothing without using any water, less use of chemical products, and 40 percent lower energy consumption. 10,000 Kalenji junior T-shirts produced using this process will be on sale in all Decathlon stores for the 2016 Spring-Summer season.

In addition to water consumption and pollution, Decathlon says is also taking emissions and exhaustion of resources into consideration to ensure it is designing and redesigning products to truly have lower impact. The company’s report notes that it is conducting long-term trials to improve the resistance and durability of its products to extend its products’ lifespans, in addition to trying to guide customers in their maintenance and repair.

Decathlon is also communicating the sustainability of its products through an environmental labeling scheme. The company opted for a pictogram solution representing a rating of A to E, with a color-code format from green to red that the general public is familiar with. So far it has been trialled on Decathlon’s French website and 5 stores in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, using specific product lines. The company plans to deploy the rating to all Decathlon products and use it in-store and online in every country that the company operates in, allowing customers to weigh environmental performance into their purchasing decisions.

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