Putting people first

Working to create better employment conditions in our supply chain and reinforcing health and safety for those manufacturing our products are both priorities here at Decathlon. Our aim is to go beyond inspection remits in order to develop relationships with our subcontractors that are based on trust and mutual respect, thereby strengthening Human Responsibility in Production (HRP)

Our dedicated teams – specialised and highly driven:

Several teams are tasked on a daily basis with coordinating and rolling out this strategy:

1. Sustainable development in production managers, in-house specialists in this area:

14 people are based in production areas and conduct the majority of assessments. Recruited locally, their command of the language and knowledge of the country’s culture make them more effective in their work. They provide production teams with ongoing training so that they understand our expectations in this field.

One of the managers for sustainable development in production is also in charge of the HRP process. She designs and rolls out the tools and methods necessary to the strategy’s success, and is supported in this role by another manager for sustainable development in production and by the manager for stakeholder relations to identify the directions to take and improvements to be made.

2. Production teams:

Involved in day-to-day operations at subcontractors’ premises, these teams schedule the assessments, co-build the corrective action plans and monitor their implementation. Aside from assessments, they are also responsible for identifying situations of non-compliance and finding a solution in conjunction with suppliers.

In 2015, 51% of production teams received training in our Human Responsibility in Production policy.

A review was conducted in 2015 to look at the training teams were given in human responsibility in production, in order to support their skill improvements, from the moment they take on their job until they acquire the relevant expertise:

  • level 1/basic: as soon as they arrive, teams are trained via e-learning to identify situations that fail to comply with our minimum requirements.
  • level 2/additional: after six months, a two-day training course is organised by a sustainable development in production manager, focusing on HRP management tools as well as methods for drawing up corrective action plans and continuous coordination of subcontractors’ social performance indicators. Two workshops lay particular emphasis on Decathlon’s requirements concerning fire safety and chemical risk management, which assessments often flag up as non-compliant points. Awareness-raising is also part of the training, with regard to environmental issues in production.
    3. Those assigned to this task:

    Certain team mates with production skills (production managers, buyers, quality managers, etc.) can become assessors. They are given internal training in both theory and practical skills internally, which qualifies them to perform these assessments. 27 people have voluntarily put themselves forward to work in these areas.

The remaining assessments are conducted by external firms. Regular meetings are organised between Decathlon teams and those of external agencies for the purposes of discussing and standardising practices.


of assessments were carried out by our internal teams in 2015.

Sustainable development in production managers meet twice a year in order to standardise and improve their practices. These meetings energise the network and encourage knowledge sharing.

Our strategy: the basics

Since 2003, our social charter based on the basic principles of the universal declaration of human rights, the fundamental conventions of the ILO, and the social responsibility standard SA 8000, defines our 8 criteria in terms of working conditions. Assessments are carried out on-site to evaluate how well they are being applied:

  • No children on site.
  • No forced labour.
  • A safe and healthy working environment.
  • No discrimination.
  • No abusive disciplinary practices.
  • Respect for working hours.
  • Respect for employees.
  • Internal HR management key in terms of compliance with our charter.
When an assessment is carried out, two SD in Production managers observe good practice in terms of workplace safety: notices requiring individual protective equipment to be worn in any production areas where certain hazardous chemicals are handled.

The charter is signed and the subcontractor assessed before any commercial relations are agreed. The frequency of these assessments depends on:

  • the strictness of locally regulated requirements.
  • resources implemented by countries to ensure that they are being applied.
  • subcontractors’ performance levels (the less satisfactory the working conditions, the more often assessments are required).
  • Assessments are carried out every 6 months in Bangladesh, every 5 years in Western Europe and Japan, and every 2 years in all other countries.

    At the end of the assessment, the subcontractor’s rating is calculated on a 5-grade scale, from A-E.

    barème EN
    The 5 grade evaluation scale, from A to E

    If a site is awarded an “E”, we require the subcontractor:

  • to undertake immediate action to eliminate the risk on the day it is observed,
  • to analyse the problem in order to identify the cause and draw up a corrective action plan in order to bring about a sustainable solution.
  • This action plan will be approved no more than 3 months after the assessment. If the situation can’t be resolved that same day, we suspend production and block any further shipments of our products.

    A complete review of our charter is currently ongoing

    After having tested out our strategy first launched during the 2000s, we are
    re-launching a risk analysis across the international spectrum in order to update our requirements and align our resources with the importance of new issues, on the basis of reference documents. Some of these issues have already been identified, and we are taking part in external multi-stakeholder working groups to help us broaden our thinking and discuss standardisation of norms and practices. Our new charter is scheduled to be rolled out in 2017.

    Out-sourcing that is not declared by subcontractors is difficult to detect. Despite being officially opposed to this practice, as stipulated by a contractual clause signed by subcontractors, and even though our teams are regularly present on-site and on the ground, certain subcontractors could still use external service providers to help manufacture our products, without our prior consent. This issue will be tackled as part of our Charter review, accompanied by an action plan regarding detection methods.


    Creating a collaborative ethos with our subcontractors

    Since 2014, we have been organising themed meetings with our subcontractors where we could discuss the purpose of our approach, and make joint progress in resolving key issues.

    cap-supplier day
    “Sustainability Suppliers Days” in Bangladesh.

    We were able to acknowledge participants’ enthusiasm at our 2015 events:

  • ‘Sustainability Suppliers Days’ in Bangladesh.
  • ‘Vision Day’ in France, with our partner subcontractors.
  • Subcontractors’ Club in China.
  • Sustainable Development Training in China, Bangladesh, etc.
  • These key events improve the quality of our subcontractor relations, reinforce the partnership dimension and accelerate the transfer of knowledge and skills.

    It was very interesting to involve the subcontractors in our SD trainings because our biggest challenge today is sustainability of actions in the factories. This challenge can only be overcome if we go beyond assessment. We have realised that assessments help us to learn about the situation, but we need to go beyond that to find sustainable solutions.

    Navneet Panwar, Sustainable Development in Production manager

    Our subcontractors and teams take part in these training courses, which enables them to have discussions about how chemical substances are managed in the factories.

    Steve Abella, Chemical risk prevention manager
    Helping our subcontractors to improve Interview with Steve Abella, Chemical risk prevention manager
    • Why is there such determination to train subcontractors in this area?

      We identified the need in 2012. Our working conditions assessment grid incorporates chemicals management in order to ensure worker safety. We have therefore trained our production teams to now work alongside subcontractors in drawing up action plans, but have observed a significant degree of variability in results. To resolve this, we are implementing a training course directly targeted at subcontractors, and designed to encourage discussions about the purpose of our strategy and our expectations, and to make them more active in this area.

    • What form does this training take in practical terms? Who takes part?

      Local production teams organise the training, and the subcontractors are free to decide on the participants: it could be the factory production director, the chemicals manager, the quality manager, anyone. Our own teams take part in these training courses too, which enables them to have discussions about how chemical substances are managed in the factories. The training lasts for one day and consists of an initial theory section, a second section about issues on the ground, and a third section, the debriefing. We give subcontractors a methodology that they can then apply. This initial stage sets out the foundations required to put them into action.

    • What are the benefits and good practices that you’ve derived from this?

      Dealing directly with subcontractors, asking them for their feedback about the difficulties of managing chemical risk to satisfy Decathlon's requirements, and enabling them to discuss amongst themselves. These are all genuinely important points that need to be incorporated into the heart of the process. There are no filters, and everyone receives the same level of information. And, since we’re on site, they can benefit from our support.

    • What developments to do you foresee on this issue in the coming years?

      We are developing our network of trainers, and hope to ramp up our support mechanism for subcontractors by creating a role dedicated to managing chemical risk in production, a position that would be based at ground level, on site. We would therefore like to give more support by, developing ways of measuring pollution of the workplace atmosphere.

    2015 saw 10 training courses organised on the management of chemicals in production. 8 subcontractors and 50 Decathlon team mates received this training


    An alternative vision of work at manufacturing sites

    In some countries, the minimum wage does not enable employees and their families to enjoy a decent quality of life. In 2014, we joined the “Benefits for Business and Workers” scheme by Impactt with the aim of raising pay to the local minimum wage level, with three voluntary subcontractors based in Bangladesh.
    Over the course of this scheme, we were able to observe that better pay was only one of the benefits brought about by the creation of a proper HR structure on production sites.

    In 2015, we extended this collaboration with the aim of now making employees and managers from the various manufacturing sites more autonomous in terms of improving their working conditions.

    The majority of subcontractors have HR monitoring that chiefly focuses on personnel management (working hours, productivity, pay, etc.). By triggering a cultural paradigm shift, we are developing a managerial conscience that places employee respect and their involvement in their workplace tool as conditions of profitable and sustainable development for all.

    In 2 years, this scheme has created a virtuous circle benefitting almost 600 employees and their employers. After Bangladesh, several projects are set to be launched in 2016 in both China and India. The information that we will derive from these pilot projects will be used to devise our own method of structuring HR, rolled out by our teams in whichever factories require them.

    The happier an employee is with their working conditions, the more they will be motivated and get involved in their company project, and the more sustainable and secure the factory's partnership with Decathlon will be. I am convinced that this type of project will enable us to incorporate our work on employee motivation and well-being into our partner management strategies.

    Soundous Hassouni, HRP process manager

    Six months after the project was launched in March 2015, the results observed among volunteer subcontractors show a tangible improvement across certain criteria, such as:

  • Hourly pay: up 5% to 10%:
  • Staff turnover: down 30% to -55%
  • Absenteeism: down 40% to -60%

    How our panel performed

    How our panel performed Objective: 80% of our level 1 subcontractors were assessed as being A, B or C.
    68% compared with 65% in 2014

    of our level 1 subcontractors involved in our scheme, with a performance level assessed to be A, B or C.

    56% (53% in 2014) of level 2 subcontractors involved in our scheme, with a performance level assessed to be A, B or C.
    A total of 887 HRP assessments were carried out in 2015.

    Calculation of level 1 subcontractors based on the 1,046 production sites involved.
    Calculation of level 2 subcontractors based on the 219 production sites concerned.

    This encouraging development can be explained in several ways:

  • We have ramped up training of our production teams regarding recurring non-compliance issues (chemical risk management and fire safety), which are now being tackled and handled more appropriately.
  • We have organised numerous events with our subcontractors, who have now taken greater ownership of our requirements.
  • We updated our assessment grid in 2013, by incorporating new requirements in terms of fire safety. As a result, a number of non-compliant issues have emerged that have harmed our overall performance. Now that these non-compliances have been resolved in subsequent assessments, our performance is once again improving.

    Causes of non-compliance observed among our subcontractors, by theme