Global frameworks Global frameworks provide a compass on sustainability

We know our challenges aren’t unique: governments, consumers, and businesses increasingly recognise that business must create positive change for society. We’ve aligned our strategy with global frameworks that are relevant to our business and industry and help guide our approach.

C&A has applied the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for this report. Our materiality assessment has determined the indicators covered in the most detail. 

We’re a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a set of universal principles addressing human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption for business.

We also support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a framework for advancing the sustainability agenda. In 2016, we further developed our approach to integrating the SDGs into our operations, innovations, and partnerships, and during 2017 and 2018, we made continued progress toward integrating them into our business planning and operations. As we review and update our global sustainability strategy for 2020 and beyond, the SDGs will play a role in our revised framework.

To navigate our report using these three frameworks, see our GRI, UNGC, and SDG Index.

Six global goals that guide our strategy and reporting framework

The work we do to create fashion with a positive impact contributes to the SDGs in many ways. The following six goals are particularly relevant to our business, our impacts, and the contribution we can make. Our main partner, C&A Foundation, works across the entire apparel value chain to bring about systemic change in the apparel sector. Together, we are generating long-term solutions as we work towards meeting the goals established in our 2020 global sustainability framework as well as the SDGs. Over the coming years, we will continue to develop and enhance our approach to the SDG.

C&A’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

C&A and C&A Foundation 1 No Poverty 2 Zero Hunger 3 Good Health and Well-Being 4 Quality Education 7 Afforable and Clean Energy 9 Industry Innovation and infrastructure 10 Inequalities 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities 14 Life below water 15 Life on land 16 Peace, Justice and strong Institutions 12 Responsible consumption and production 13 Climate action 5 Gender equality 6 Clean water and sanitation 8 Decent work and economic growth 17 Partnerships for the goals 5 Gender equality 6 Clean water and sanitation 8 Decent work and economic growth 12 Responsible consumption and production 13 Climate action 17 Partnerships for the goals

SDG #5 – Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goal

  • Establish and achieve goals in our Women’s Empowerment Principles Action Plan

Goal 5 states that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but the basis for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. When women are educated, healthy, and economically empowered, families and communities thrive.

Women are the driving force behind our industry. The majority of our customers and employees are women, as are most of the people who make our clothes. We are working to empower women and achieve gender equality across our supply chain, from the farming of raw materials through to the manufacture and sale of our clothes. 

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • We want to create products everyone can enjoy, regardless of their gender. We recognise the need to reflect this in the products we design for both men and women, and the way in which we market them. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • We're increasing transparency across our supply chain, publicly disclosing our tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers’ factories every year. 46% of the workers in our supply chain, who are predominantly women, work in top-performing, A/B-rated factories that adhere to our high standards on working hours, minimum wages, discrimination, violence or other abuse, and undisclosed production. Read more
  • We’re collaborating with other organisations, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, GoodWeave, and C&A Foundation, to protect the most vulnerable and abolish Sumangali, a form of bonded labour in India affecting girls and women. Read more

Sustainable lives

  • C&A signed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles in March 2018, and we have since created locally-relevant road maps and action plans on gender parity and the empowerment of women in our four operating regions. Read more 
  • We contribute to strengthening communities with a focus on mothers and children, through partnership with Save the Children and C&A Foundation. In 2018, we renewed our partnership with Save the Children, committing to providing continued support over the three years (2018-2020) and providing more than 10 million euros. Read more

SDG #6 – Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goals

  • 100% of our cotton is more sustainable
  • 67% of our raw materials are more sustainable
  • Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals
  • 30% reduction of water use in the production of our raw materials (from 2016 baseline, by 2025)
  • 10% reduction of water use in C&A stores, distribution centres, and offices (from 2012 baseline, by 2025)

Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population and is projected to rise. Goal 6 looks at how we provide access to clean water and basic sanitation to billions of people who currently live without it. 2018 is the fourth year we have undertaken a detailed scientific assessment of our entire life cycle to understand where our impacts lie and where we can make the greatest contribution.

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • Our cornerstone goal to source 100% more sustainable cotton underpins our approach to water, as more sustainable cotton – and organic cotton in particular – uses considerably less water than conventional cotton. Read more.
  • We are a member of CottonConnect, the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). All three are industry-wide initiatives that support cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices, including using less water. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • As part of our commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, we closely monitor the quality of wastewater from our suppliers’ factories and report publicly on the results. In 2018, we conducted 379 chemical management audits, 478 wastewater tests, and 379 corrective action plan visits to evaluate efforts towards meeting our Sustainable Chemical Management programme requirements. Read more
  • We also conducted 16 two-day seminars on chemical and wastewater management, training over 400 factory staff. Read more
  • In 2018, to increase the emphasis on wastewater discharge quality for conventional parameters in our supply chain, C&A further enhanced the Minimum Performance Standard by adding the requirement to meet the Foundation Level set in the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines.

SDG #8 - Decent work and economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goals

  • 100% of our products sourced from A/B-rated suppliers
  • Build capacity and supplier ownership within our supply chain

Goal 8 calls for more jobs that not only provide decent pay, but also stimulate the economy and provide equal opportunities for men and women, while protecting the environment. The apparel industry has an important role to play in providing quality jobs that stimulate development.

We work with our suppliers' production units to ensure the quality of jobs in our sector – everywhere we operate and source from – uphold labour rights and the safe and fair working conditions that are central to decent work. We also create jobs in the communities where we have C&A stores and offices. 

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable supply

  • We believe safe and fair working conditions should be the norm for all garment workers. We have identified the top four labour issues facing our suppliers and have created long-term strategies for each challenge: working hours and compensation, building and fire safety, freedom of association, and undisclosed production. Read more
  • We are actively involved in ACT, a global initiative on Action, Collaboration, Transformation, to unite stakeholders in improving wages through collective bargaining in key production countries, world-class manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices to lift the wage floor. Read more
  • Working with our suppliers, we want to help build capacity and ownership of the issues they face. Our bespoke Supplier Ownership Programme covers key C&A suppliers with responsibility for over 67,500 workers. Read more
  • In many places, workers may not be used to being able to influence decision-making. The right to freedom of association or the acknowledgement of workers’ rights can be unknown. We are changing that by supporting fair contracts and social dialogue. Read more

Sustainable lives

  • We listen to our employees to understand and act on the issues that matter to them. In our global engagement survey, we ask employees to give us their thoughts on C&A's values, strategy, our approach to sustainability, and how we’re doing as an employer. Read more
  • C&A and C&A Foundation won the 2018 Employee Engagement Awards in the category Social Responsibility for our Inspiring World campaign, launched that same year. Read more

SDG #12 – Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goals

  • Zero waste to landfill in our retail operations chain (by 2025)
  • 100% of our cotton is more sustainable
  • 67% of our raw materials are more sustainable
  • Continually increase Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products in our retail markets
  • Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals
  • 30% reduction of water use in the production of our raw materials (from 2016 baseline, by 2025)
  • 10% reduction of water use in C&A stores, distribution centres, and offices (from 2012 baseline, by 2025)

Goal 12 asks us to think twice about the things we use, the waste we create, and how that impacts our planet – it’s about doing more (and better) with less.

This principle is at the heart of our global sustainability strategy, from the work we do on clean environment in our supply chain to our commitment to a new normal where we sell circular fashion products, designed with their next use in mind. Our vision is one of a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing.

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • In 2017, C&A launched the first gold level Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirt – a recyclable garment made of 100% organic cotton, with safe materials and chemicals, and produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Since then, C&A has launched additional Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM products, including jeans, in both Mens’ and Ladies’ clothing lines. Read more
  • In 2018, we took another important step forward towards 100% more sustainable cotton by launching a groundbreaking Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot with Fashion for Good, C&A Foundation, the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), and Bext360. This initiative uses innovative technology to trace organic cotton in textiles through the value chain, which is valuable to ensuring the integrity, quality, and purity of organic cotton.
  • For the sixth year, we have been named the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton, and our commitment to 100% more sustainable cotton – including organic and Better Cotton – will help to ensure we use significantly fewer natural resources, while emitting less CO2, when compared with conventional cotton. Read more
  • In Europe and China, we have taken the bold step of committing to source 100% of our man-made cellulosic fibres from suppliers who have practices in place to prevent ancient or endangered forest products entering their supply chain. Read more
  • We continue to develop other innovative clothing collections including sustainable denim made with organic cotton and recycled PET made from plastic bottles. Read more
  • We’re helping customers give their clothes a second life through our clothing take-back programmes. Since our successful launch in the Netherlands, we have rolled out in-store take-back in Belgium, Brazil, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. We also launched a convenient online take-back programme for customers in Germany, and in 2019 we are piloting take-back at 10 stores in Mexico. These initiatives not only make it easier for more customers to responsibly dispose of unwanted clothes, but help to shift our industry to a circular approach. Read more

Sustainable supply

Our Sustainable Chemicals Management (SCM) strategy is guiding our work to eliminate hazardous chemicals from our supply chain by 2020.

  • In 2018, we continued to implement our SCM Programme at all key tier-1, tier-2, and tier-3 suppliers, creating tangible progress towards our zero discharge of hazardous chemicals commitment.
  • Also during the year, we rolled out tools to increase the transparency of the chemicals used in our supply chain to better drive the adoption of safer chemistry.
  • We also increased the emphasis and priority of wastewater discharge quality by further enhancing the Minimum Performance Standard for supplier wastewater, and we continue updating the Standard annually as we work towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals. Read more

SDG#13 – Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goals

  • 100% of our cotton is more sustainable
  • 67% of our raw materials are more sustainable
  • 20% reduction of carbon footprint in C&A stores, distribution centres, and offices

Goal 13 is about finding solutions to climate change. It will take actions from all of us to create a significant positive impact. We’re working to reduce our carbon emissions across our value chain.

In 2018, we completed our fourth detailed, hybrid Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), to better understand where our impacts lie and where we can make the greatest contribution. Thanks to improvements in modelling, we have been able to set a new and more accurate baseline to measure our reductions going forward. We are also using our LCA and other data to define our science-based climate targets, helping to ensure we are reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. This process includes developing and evaluating various target scenarios, a detailed exercise that will continue through 2019 in alignment with our new 2020 sustainability strategy.

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • We actively source organic and Better Cotton to meet our goal of 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020. Cotton makes up 57% of the materials we use, so it's where we can have the biggest impact. We're over two-thirds of the way to meeting our goal: 71% of the cotton we source is more sustainable, and with that come many benefits, both social and environmental. Read more
  • In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions were 12% lower than our baseline year of 2016. This was influenced by the sourcing of more sustainable materials. Read more
  • Our membership in the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Better Cotton Initiative allows us to support cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices that use fewer pesticides, look after the health of the soil, and conserve natural habitats and biodiversity. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • Our cornerstone commitment to source 100% more sustainable cotton underpins our approach to combating climate change. We estimate that our sustainable cotton mix in 2018 contributes 10% less CO2 than the equivalent amount of conventional cotton, avoiding roughly 54,600 metric tons of GHG emissions. Read more
  • The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 10% of our total carbon footprint. We explored our customers’ habits to dig deeper into this number, and found that a high proportion (60-85%) of our customers line-dry their clothes, and a majority wear articles such as trousers, shirts, and blouses multiple times before washes. Read more

SDG #17 – Partnership for the goals

Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalise partnerships for sustainable development

Related C&A 2020 Sustainability Goal

  • Support circular innovations in our value chain through our partnership with Fashion for Good

This goal recognises that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships among government, the private sector, and civil society.

At C&A, collaboration and partnerships are central to our approach. We strongly believe we need convergence around common standards, and between initiatives and organisations, to drive coherence throughout the value chain and work towards achieving the global goals. Fashion for Good, named in one of our 2020 goals, is an important partner, but we participate in many multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources in support of the SDGs.

See a full list of our partnerships here

 

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