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Franco-British Business Awards: Decathlon wins for positive impact

Winner of the Franco-British Business Award for Community Impact, Decathlon donated snorkelling masks to NHS hospitals to aid in Covid-19 treatment

Early in the pandemic, sports retailer Decathlon stopped sales of their full-face snorkel masks to donate their supply to hospitals across Europe, at a time when respirators were in short supply.

Thousands of their EasyBreath masks were retrofitted by medical professionals and used as C-PAP ventilators for treatment of Covid-19 patients by health services including the NHS and the Foundation Hopitaux de Paris.

‘This crisis and the way we reacted in Decathlon had a big impact on the co-writing of our group vision,’ says Decathon’s CSR Leader Delphine Mazillier. Within the UK, the company has 1,500 staff across forty-five stores, London headquarters and warehouse in Northampton.

Mazillier lists three core criteria of a successful a community outreach project. Firstly, the company purpose and mission and operational actions ‘need to be fully aligned,’ from ‘top down and bottom up’ in order to empower staff across the company.

‘The second criteria are the common values that we share within the company.’ Their core values – responsibility, vitality, authenticity and generosity – can be seen, she says, throughout the business, including how they hire and manage staff.

Decathlon has also set out strong sustainability commitments in their 2020-2026 strategic plan, to develop people, to preserve the nature, and to create sustainable values.

The third condition is to ‘trust people,’ she says, both internally and externally. The mask donation was a grassroots initiative generated from staff – firstly in Italy, where the idea was trialled in collaboration with the Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems and the Gardone Valtrompia hospital in Rome.

‘Trusting people in the corporate world is not always easy,’ says Mazillier, but it can have huge rewards. ‘Top management never told the employees involved that they had to do this. It was obvious what to do, and they took the decision by themselves.’

Decathlon eased their patent on the EasyBreath mask, and their product team shared technical data to speed up testing and retrofitting. Health bodies, like the NHS, handled the regulatory side of sourcing medical equipment unconventionally. In order to prepare the masks for medical use, bespoke valves had to be fitted by medical equipment specialists using a 3-D printing process.

Success of the project in Italy spread quickly on social media, and enabled Decathlon to reach out to health care providers in countries across Europe where they operate, and to work with a range of in-country medical equipment providers for the retrofitting.

‘I have to insist on the fact that this is a collaborative project,’ says Mazillier. ‘This award should not only be Decathlon’s, the other companies that played an important role share this award with us.’

Another aspect of successful CSR initiatives, is when you don’t work alone. ‘For us,’ she says, ‘it means we could work faster and achieve real results when lives were at stake.’

 

Decathlon was represented at the Franco-British Business Awards by Delphine Mazillier, Community Impact Coordinator. The Community Impact Award was sponsored by Dassault Systemes.

Looking back on the Community Impact Award

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