Monitoring user health and safety

From designing our products through to our after-sales service, Decathlon implements solutions to manage the choice of the right product components for both our customers and those who manufacture them. A dedicated team has been focusing on the subject since 2007 and has deployed both tools and training programmes while closely tracking the availability of alternative solutions to replace hazardous substances present in Decathlon products.

Hazardous substance

A substance is considered ‘hazardous’ if it presents an established or suspected danger to the health and safety of people and the environment. Countries forbid or restrict the use of some of these substances via their regulations (REACH in Europe, CPSIA in the USA, …). The substances in question must be absent or in quantities that fall within the required tolerance levels.

Teams working both up and downstream of the production process

 

A central team:
Three people are responsible for the global project and determine which substances are concerned, the thresholds, test methods and testing frequency. Decathlon’s subcontractors agree to respect these thresholds and all have signed Decathlon’s Restricted Substances List (RSL).

Decathlon carefully monitors the composition of its products. Besides the regulations, our teams provide continuous monitoring and can decide to no longer use or even prohibit the use of a substance they consider to be hazardous.

Besides the regulations, our teams provide continuous monitoring and can decide to no longer use or even prohibit the use of a substance they consider to be hazardous.

They also provide continuous monitoring in order to identify the substances and the solutions to anticipate, reduce or repair the related risks and guarantee the quality of relations with the customers on these issues.

We place customer relations at the very heart of our considerations.

  • Average response time for customer queries relating to the substances found in our products: 3.7 days in 2015 / 3 days in 2014
  • Average time to deal with questions relating to substances found in our products: 36 days in 2015 (18 days for queries, 40 days for adverse skin reactions / 40 days in 2014 (441 cases dealt with in 2015)

In 2015, we focused our efforts on the training of teams responsible for customer relations in their countries. In France, Germany, Spain, Italy and China, the representatives are autonomous and responsible for providing satisfactory responses in the event of complaints (approximately 80% of which concern adverse skin reactions), while representatives will also be appointed for Russia and India in 2016. Customer query processing time should therefore be reduced in the coming months.

A better structured network:
Integrated into the brand and industrial processes teams, our quality managers set up product control plans, monitor and accompany our subcontractors in relation to the RSL and intervene in the event of non-compliance. On a country by country level, 10 to 20% of missioned representatives belong to the production teams in order to deploy the incentive in the field in collaboration with the subcontractors.

84

team mates have received training in toxicology

team (1)
“Toxi weeks” for training country representatives

In 2015, 2 weeks (one in Italy, the other in China) were organised with the representatives to enhance their skills and autonomy in local decision-making in the event of non-compliance within their geographical perimeter.

Training in toxicology is part of the design and production team training programme (product engineer, component engineer, production leader and production quality manager). 305 people received the training in 2015.

The figures:
1 water-sports Passion brand representative.
7 industrial representatives
24 country representatives

 

Restricted Substances Lists and monitoring

The goal of the RSL is to offer our suppliers a clearly defined list of all prohibited substances and/or the thresholds the substances we consider to be hazardous for our customers. The list is regularly updated to include:

  • modifications in the regulations of the countries in which Decathlon operates.
  • the regulation of new countries for Decathlon in the event it is more stringent that existing regulations. Such demanding standards are obviously a challenge for Decathlon as the company seeks to develop its activities in new countries.
  • toxicological studies of non-regulated substances.
  • an improved understanding of the production processes.
  • the evolution of testing processes leading to lower thresholds.
  •  
    In the past, RSL requirements only concerned the end product and its components. In 2015 we wanted to progress in risk anticipation by organising controls for products as they arrive at our subcontractor sites. By limiting the presence of hazardous chemical products, this new requirement helps protect both the team mates and the environment and improves the quality of the products.

    Working alone on such issues really isn’t viable, and we are looking to harmonise our practices with other firms in the same sector. This would make is easier to implement requirements for subcontractors. It would be preferable to begin with a common beta version that could be improved continuously rather than have a multitude of heterogeneous requirements due to an absence of coordination.

    Frederic Felipe, head of Chemical substances management

    This requirement allowed us to complete our RSL. A working group, whose findings are public and have become a benchmark, ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical), published an MRSL at the end of 2014. Our teams used the findings to draw up Decathlon’s list of prohibited substances and thresholds.

    Our subcontractors join the cause % of subcontractors who signed the latest version of Decathlon’s RSL
    86% (vs 83% in 2014)

    All our suppliers are concerned by this initiative and agree not to use any of the listed substances. They are monitored every 3, 6 or 12 months, depending on the type of product they manufacture.
    In the event of a confirmed risk for the customer, production is stopped and the products destroyed.

    Our products are mainly controlled before shipment from the country of production (controls conducted by independent external laboratories). This makes it possible to guarantee the products delivered to our stores do not contain any non-compliant substances. Tests are also conducted once the items are on sale to ensure the final products delivered to the store present no variations from the samples submitted for tests of conformity.

    The items are tested to check their conformity with our requirements. 98% of products tested complied with our standards. Decathlon is proactive and goes beyond standard regulatory requirements to guarantee customer safety.

    5,803

    products tested in 2015

    These tests make it possible to identify all risks as far upstream as possible, all the way through the process to our after-sales service if a product proves to be non-compliant.

    To sum up:

  • Before launching the production phase, suppliers sign the RSL.
  • Controls are performed during several key stages in the process. They concern all products but can also focus on the most sensitive product lines (items for babies, toys, products that come into contact with food).
  • If required, customer protection actions may be deployed such as withdrawal from sale or product recall campaigns.
  • Hazardous substances: Decathlon in action

    Removing phthalates from our shoes:
    Phthalates are plasticisers, in other words molecules used in plastics to make them more flexible. For the certification of our footwear for the Turkish market, we performed a whole line of tests that identified the presence of phthalates that are prohibited by local regulation. Shoes are one of the most sensitive products in terms of phthalates because of the prolonged contact with the skin. Removing phthalates from footwear is a complex process because the production process itself is long and involves a number of stages to assemble the various components. To work on their removal, we recruited a pharmacist in 2014 whose work has proven beneficial for all the production countries. He is also a member of a standardisation committee for Afnor concerning the production of leather products and footwear.

    Compared to the pharmaceutical industry which has an almost zero chemical risk level, the sports equipment sector could do a lot better and a great number of projects are underway to improve the situation.

    Romain Papin-Vincent, Chemical security manager.
    DSC_0002_3
    Removing the phthalates from our shoes Romain Papin-Vincent, Chemical security manager for footwear manufacturing.
    • What is your role?

      My role is to transform current understanding in terms of toxicology into simple rules that can be used by our footwear design and production teams to help them become more autonomous in their management of chemical substances. Compared to the pharmaceutical industry which has an almost zero risk level, the sports equipment sector could do a lot better and a great number of projects are underway to improve the situation.

    • Why focus on phthalates in particular?

      Part of the increasing problem of fertility in the world is due to endocrine disrupters, which include certain phthalates. Turkey implemented strict controls for the presence of such substances in imported footwear. Since we believe this initiative is a positive step forward, we have decided to go even further and apply the same requirement for all our markets.

    • Why is it so difficult to eliminate them?

      For phthalates to act as plasticisers, there needs to be a lot of them in the product and so if their use is intentional it becomes visible. The first stage of our work was to put an end to such practices among our subcontractors. However, they are still present as contaminants in our products today, even if the level of concentration is much lower. This is because those responsible have not harmonised their strategies for the elimination of the risk relating to phthalates. The subcontractors manufacture for other brands and when our products arrive on the production lines they can be contaminated by substances we prohibit.

    • Can you talk about some of the best practices you have already deployed?

      First of all, we set up a phthalates control for all our products the instant the production is launched, with trained and autonomous teams. It was important to get a global picture of the situation in order to identify problematic production sites.
      Today, the challenge is to make our suppliers aware of the risks linked to certain phthalates. As soon as we detect a product that does not comply with our standards, we provide training to the production site employees in chemical risk management: how to ensure products entering the factory are phthalate-free, how to decontaminate the machines, how to train the machine operators …
      To have a good control of these risks, we have to train all our subcontractors, one after the other.
      In the event of a recurring problem at a subcontractor’s site, we may also be obliged to stop the production of an article. The situation may stem from problems at management level and therefore the whole production process may be concerned.

    • What results have you obtained?

      100% of our products are tested during their development to check their conformity with our requirements concerning phthalates. Each time there is a non-conformity, we work hand in hand with the supplier to implement a long-term correction action plan at the site in question.
      Such actions always pay off and today we have lowered our rate of non-conformity by over 90%.

    • And what’s planned for the coming months?

      We would like to see that all our suppliers have acquired an understanding of the subject through a similar form of promotion as is used for human responsibility in production. This would enable us to reduce the frequency of our controls and allow our suppliers to work autonomously since the risk would be lower.

    Moving towards 'PFC free' :

    The water-repellency of an article refers to its capacity to repel water rather than absorb it. The article does not become soaked in water and remains lightweight, breathable and warm during the sporting activity. Water-repellency is most often obtained using a perfluorocarbon (PFC) treatment that is applied to the outside of the product. Listed as a “substance of very high concern” by the European Chemical Agency, Decathlon is actively looking to do away with PFC by finding a new industrial process for water-repellency.

    Detecting NPEOs:

    NPEOs are used by a number of suppliers during the dyeing and washing stages of their textile production process. We are closely monitoring the presence of such substances (listed as toxic for aquatic organisms and a potential endocrine disrupter for humans) in all our products that contain either fabric or leather. NPEOs have been on our list of prohibited substances since 2012.