External review Review by the Ethical Trading Initiative

In an ever more challenging and changing world showing commitment to ethical business has never been so important. It means demonstrating that the products sold to customers have not been made at the hands of exploited workers. And, C&A demonstrates in its Global Sustainability Report, that means knowing where and how garments and footwear are made.

 

With nearly 800 suppliers and a million workers in its supply chain, making human rights connections is an imperative, recognising that there is always a risk that standards may not be met all the time everywhere. As such, C&A is taking significant steps to ensure it is at the forefront of corporate human rights performance.  An ETI member of six years standing, we have seen that progress first-hand in C&A’s commitment to product traceability across its first and second tiers, and to the integration of its ethical trade policies, systems and plans.

Ethical Trading Initiative

Using “soft” power to leverage improved working conditions and to move beyond audit to protect and respect workers’ rights and provide remedy as necessary, is now a prerequisite for leading companies such as C&A. That acknowledgment of the power of business to do good, is embedded in the heart of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals and in the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

As such, C&A’s ambition to be an ethical leader is clear. As is C&A’s understanding of the importance of collaboration, not only across industry but increasingly with workers themselves. Be that through social dialogue programmes or through an increasing understanding of the need to engage with workers’ representatives via trade unions.

To quote C&A’s report: “To achieve our vision of safe and fair workplaces for all, we must employ a two-pronged approach: building our suppliers’ capacity, helping them to assess and strengthen their performance, and empowering their workers to act.”

Ultimately, all companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and where poor conditions prevail engage to drive positive change. There is always more to do; ensuring workers enjoy their rights to join a trade union if they wish and making tangible progress on wages, for example. But C&A have demonstrated that they are willing to use their influence to improve labour standards for workers. It requires ambition and a commitment to continuous improvement as the C&A business and C&A Foundation acknowledge. But if that ambition is achieved, workers the business and their customers all benefit.

Peter McAllister
Executive Director
Ethical Trading Initiative

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