Decathlon: Sewing on an Empty Stomach -

Decathlon: Sewing on an Empty Stomach

Credit: zeit.de

  • Dec 06 2017 16:00About: 6 days ago
  • 11 views




Milanti's face is the picture of
bewilderment. A section of the website belonging to Decathlon, the discount
sporting goods retailer, has just been translated for her – a part where the
company pledges fair business practices despite its low prices. "In
Decathlon, responsibility is one of our core values," it reads.
"Therefore, in the factories of our suppliers or subcontractors, we are
committed to observe and ensure the application of the Guiding Principles on
Business and Human Rights developed by the United Nations under the
"Protect, Respect and Remedy" framework, within our Social Charter."

While the website notes that the
"Social Charter" pertains to such things as "child labor,
working hours, discrimination, etc.," it provides no additional details.
Milanti, in any case, has just finished a 12-hour shift at one of the 12
Decathlon suppliers in Sri Lanka, and she has no claim to vacation time or sick
pay. "I thought people in Europe had it better," she says,
bewildered.

Milanti's name has been changed to protect
her identity and many details about her life and those of her coworkers have
gone unmentioned in this story. Otherwise, there is a risk that the
seamstresses could be punished for tarnishing the image of a company that seeks
to present itself as a socially responsible, environmentally sustainable
company that is expanding worldwide.



That expansion can easily be seen in
Germany, where hardly a week goes by without another branch of the French chain
opening up somewhere in the country. The company, based in the northern French
town of Villeneuve-d'Ascq outside of Lille, made an initial, unsuccessful
attempt to penetrate the German market in the 1980s, but ran up against stiff
competition from outdoor specialist stores. This time around, though, customers
have become well-versed is seeking out the best deal on the Internet and are
now welcoming the discounter with open arms.

By the end of this year, Decathlon will
have 46 stores in Germany and will soon become market leader. And it continues
to scour the country for large retail spaces (30,000 square meters / 320,000
square feet) located on main arterials that can be reached by at least 250,000
people within 20 minutes or less. Those who have suboptimal real estate for
rent are ecstatic about Decathlon's expansion. City center retailers,
meanwhile, are less excited, as are mayors worried about maintaining the
vitality of their municipality's pedestrian zones. Because the market for
sporting goods hasn't grown in Germany since 2000, every article Decathlon
sells at a discount price is an article that another store doesn't sell.


And as has now become apparent, Decathlon
isn't quite as dedicated to sportsmanship as it would have its customers
believe.

Washing at the Well

As she does every day, Milanti walked the
1.5 kilometers to work after spending the night with her husband and children
in the same bed. The family lives in a so-called boarding house, huge numbers
of which have sprung up outside the multiple free trade zones in Sri Lanka,
providing shelter to the army of workers. They tend to be little more than
barracks with tiny rooms in which residents sleep and cook. The area around
Katunayake, near the Colombo airport, or near Wathupitiwela, located not far
away, is full of such boarding houses.

Many of the beds are shared. When one woman
heads of for a nightshift, another who has just arrived home lies down to get
some sleep. The boarding houses don't have bathing facilities, with Milanti
having washed herself with water from an outside well and a tiny piece of soap.
Shower gel is much too expensive for the family.

Even in good months, Milanti's wages from
the Decathlon supplier hardly amount to more than 150 euros. A quarter of that
total goes to rent and electricity, with an additional quarter going to
childcare, with school ending in early afternoon.

Sri Lankan textile exports to the European
Union amount to $1.9 billion per year, making Europe the country's most
important export market. And it may soon jump up by $400 to $500 million,
according to a recent statement by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad
Bathiudeen. Following a seven-year-lull, Brussels in May once again granted the
country reduced export duties under its Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP)
program offered to developing countries.










Milanti's face is the picture of
bewilderment. A section of the website belonging to Decathlon, the discount
sporting goods retailer, has just been translated for her – a part where the
company pledges fair business practices despite its low prices. "In
Decathlon, responsibility is one of our core values," it reads.
"Therefore, in the factories of our suppliers or subcontractors, we are
committed to observe and ensure the application of the Guiding Principles on
Business and Human Rights developed by the United Nations under the
"Protect, Respect and Remedy" framework, within our Social Charter."



While the website notes that the
"Social Charter" pertains to such things as "child labor,
working hours, discrimination, etc.," it provides no additional details.
Milanti, in any case, has just finished a 12-hour shift at one of the 12
Decathlon suppliers in Sri Lanka, and she has no claim to vacation time or sick
pay. "I thought people in Europe had it better," she says,
bewildered.



Milanti's name has been changed to protect
her identity and many details about her life and those of her coworkers have
gone unmentioned in this story. Otherwise, there is a risk that the
seamstresses could be punished for tarnishing the image of a company that seeks
to present itself as a socially responsible, environmentally sustainable
company that is expanding worldwide.









That expansion can easily be seen in
Germany, where hardly a week goes by without another branch of the French chain
opening up somewhere in the country. The company, based in the northern French
town of Villeneuve-d'Ascq outside of Lille, made an initial, unsuccessful
attempt to penetrate the German market in the 1980s, but ran up against stiff
competition from outdoor specialist stores. This time around, though, customers
have become well-versed is seeking out the best deal on the Internet and are
now welcoming the discounter with open arms.



By the end of this year, Decathlon will
have 46 stores in Germany and will soon become market leader. And it continues
to scour the country for large retail spaces (30,000 square meters / 320,000
square feet) located on main arterials that can be reached by at least 250,000
people within 20 minutes or less. Those who have suboptimal real estate for
rent are ecstatic about Decathlon's expansion. City center retailers,
meanwhile, are less excited, as are mayors worried about maintaining the
vitality of their municipality's pedestrian zones. Because the market for
sporting goods hasn't grown in Germany since 2000, every article Decathlon
sells at a discount price is an article that another store doesn't sell.






And as has now become apparent, Decathlon
isn't quite as dedicated to sportsmanship as it would have its customers
believe.



Washing at the Well



As she does every day, Milanti walked the
1.5 kilometers to work after spending the night with her husband and children
in the same bed. The family lives in a so-called boarding house, huge numbers
of which have sprung up outside the multiple free trade zones in Sri Lanka,
providing shelter to the army of workers. They tend to be little more than
barracks with tiny rooms in which residents sleep and cook. The area around
Katunayake, near the Colombo airport, or near Wathupitiwela, located not far
away, is full of such boarding houses.



Many of the beds are shared. When one woman
heads of for a nightshift, another who has just arrived home lies down to get
some sleep. The boarding houses don't have bathing facilities, with Milanti
having washed herself with water from an outside well and a tiny piece of soap.
Shower gel is much too expensive for the family.



Even in good months, Milanti's wages from
the Decathlon supplier hardly amount to more than 150 euros. A quarter of that
total goes to rent and electricity, with an additional quarter going to
childcare, with school ending in early afternoon.



Sri Lankan textile exports to the European
Union amount to $1.9 billion per year, making Europe the country's most
important export market. And it may soon jump up by $400 to $500 million,
according to a recent statement by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad
Bathiudeen. Following a seven-year-lull, Brussels in May once again granted the
country reduced export duties under its Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP)
program offered to developing countries.




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French discount sporting goods chain Decathlon promises affordable prices while adhering responsible labor practices. That comes surprise seamstresses Asia.

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