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The innovation to support sustainable development goals has come to the forefront in recent years, and companies are making sustainability a part of their core values. Decathlon is a French sporting goods retailer founded by Michel Leclercq in the year 1976. It commits to sustainability in its entire supply chains and product range, such as its clothing, sports, fishing, trekking, and camping equipment, by covering the UN sustainable goals.
In the innovation that we have covered, Decathlon is promoting Quality education, Affordable and clean energy, Decent work and economic growth, Responsible consumption and production, climate action, and partnership for goals.
In recent year’s “sustainability” has become a buzzword and has garnered a lot of attention. While the implications towards the water, pollution, and air can easily be traced to automobiles, pharma, and packaging. The fashion industry's contribution is also significant due to the enormous amount of waste it generates, right from sourcing raw material to recycling clothes.
Decathlon realized that manufacturing and recycling/decomposing its products is harmful to the planet. In 2013, reducing greenhouse gases was identified as one of the priority challenges, and by 2018 the oversight on emissions was expanded to product suppliers. In 2019, Decathlon updated its climate commitments relying on the Science-Based target (SBT) initiative to limit global temperate increase by 1.5O C. By 2020. Decathlon aims to use only sustainably sourced cotton in partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and plans to eliminate perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in production. Currently, 95% of its cotton comes from sustainable resources. 86% of its rank 1 suppliers are rated A, B, or C on their human responsibility production. It has also committed to reducing the carbon intensity per product sold by 40% by 2026. In taking these steps, Decathlon sees a greener and healthy future for all.
Wearing Clothing Action with Sustainable Clothing Innovation
This innovation was conceptualized by Emmanuelle Francis, Product Manager of Quechua. The increase in a societal awareness of sustainability leads to the demand for more environmentally friendly products. Also, the increasing rate of pollution and biodegradation accelerated the shift to sustainable practices at Decathlon. “Make Sports accessible to all, has now been transformed into Sustainably make sports accessible to all.” The importance of knowledge sharing was stressed upon. When major industry forces take up proactive measures to reduce their carbon footprint and strive to become more sustainable, this effect will start to trickle down to other sections of the society as a whole. “Earth is our playground, and we should take care of it and maintain it. Else it will become a dirt ground”.
Decathlon is the company that believes that “The world is our playground,” and we continue on the way we are right now, our playground will soon turn into a junkyard. An Interview with Mr. Anif Raza from Decathlon India gave a lot of insights on how Decathlon perceives sustainability and how they are acting toward making this world a better place. Focusing majorly on sustainability by reducing carbon footprints, 95% of total cotton used is sustainably sourced organic cotton; also, 16.30% polyester is recycled from post-consumer waste PET-bottle (which also reduces the waste that is otherwise difficult to deal with as it may take up to 1000 years to decompose). Both of which are the major raw material for their products. Packing the final product has been made on the same lines; 88.20% of the packing material is sustainable. Due to this inculcation of eco-design in their process, 61.10% of their portfolio products come with environmental labeling. The company also successfully managed to reduce carbon emission by 12% in 2019 for the year 2016. Adding to this, Renewable energy is another major goal for Decathlon. They aim to use renewable energy resources for 65% of electricity consumption by 2026, which came close to 58.9% by the end of 2019 itself. All of their new facilities completely run on renewable sources of energy.
Decathlon is working in the direction of the betterment of the environment and the betterment of society. Along with its own facilities, Decathlon has continuously helped its suppliers improve their industrial sites to reduce their environmental impact based on their risk. Further, Decathlon’s products are Made in India products that reduce each product's carbon footprints and generate employment, hence uplifting society. This benefits Decathlon as a company as well. A lot of tax duty is saved on the products when made within the country; hence, it increases their EBIT (profits). Further, Decathlon runs a program called SRFA (Sports Really for All) under which each store takes care of sports training and development of 10-20 students, which will help them achieve their individual skills and helping them achieve their dreams in sports.
Over the year, Decathlon has emerged as a major player in the Sports Industry in India through its affordable product ranges. With consumers becoming more conscious of their carbon footprints, Decathlon sees a huge market share growth in the next few years. “Decathlon measures its performance not only in terms of its turnover but has actively moved towards measuring its performance in terms of volumes generated sustainably.” Decathlon follows sustainability principles, which has led to an increase in the top line and improved margins. The use of recycled materials such as plastic bottles, polyester, and textile has led to a 60-70% reduction in the raw material cost. Adoption of such practices has helped the company generate larger revenues while at the same time ridding the planet of recyclable waste.
The company also has a policy of setting up new stores and warehouses run entirely on renewable energy. The company also believes in localized procurements for organic cotton, footwear range, recycled polyester from PET bottles, and other textiles, reducing overhead logistics costs and significantly reducing their carbon footprint.
Decathlon aims to be a Climate Positive Business by 2030, and to achieve the company has aggressively tried to streamline its operations more sustainably.
Decathlon is committed to making the entire society climate action-aware and conservation-sensitive in the next ten years. To this end, they include their customers and the entire population, which also includes their competitors. They are pioneers of sustainable products in a field that has been largely aloof from climate action. This is slowly forcing their competitors to integrate this innovation in their products and make it available to the masses. They have set a positive change in motion. This effort aims to create a market for sustainable clothing and sports, exposing a larger population to such products and thereby creating awareness, demand, and ultimately societal action towards the environment.
This is the invisible and gradual change taking place. On the frontiers, each store of Decathlon India has adopted close to 20 school going children from economically unprivileged families for sports training. They facilitate and mentor these students to pursue a sport and represent the sport from interschool to the national level. This has benefited families of those children as they develop a skill that can economically support the family without much investment. At the same time, Decathlon can fulfill its motto of bringing sustainable sports to many. These students are also given lessons on climate change and the need for action, thus spreading the message to the grass-root level, for which climate action is an otherwise non-impending issue for them.
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Anif Haider, Coach
Decathlon Sports India is dedicated to bringing sustainable sports to the largest section of society possible. Their working philosophy revolves around the 17 UN SDGs pursued both by the organization in the society and within the organization.