Global frameworks Global frameworks provide a compass on sustainability

We know that our challenges aren’t unique: increasingly governments, consumers and businesses 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.

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. See the GRI Index for a summary of our progress in these important areas.

C&A has applied the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines for this report.  Our assessment of materiality has been used to determine the indicators that we have elaborated on in this report. See the GRI Index here.

We support the UN 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. 

 

 

Six global goals that guide our strategy and reporting framework

The work we do to create fashion with a positive impact contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals 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. Over the coming years, we will continue to develop and enhance our approach to the these goals.

SDG #5 – Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

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. At C&A, our business is focused on our customer, women our the driving force behind our industry. Just as the majority of our customers and employees are women, so 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.  The following are the outcomes how we have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy:

Sustainable products

  • We want to create products everyone can enjoy, regardless of their gender. We recognize 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. We have publicly disclosed our tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers' factories worldwide. 61% of the workers in our supply chain, who are predominantly women, work in top-rated factories who adhere to our high standards on working hours, minimum wages, discrimination, violence or abuse and unauthorized homeworking. Read about the work we're doing to empower suppliers and workers.
  • We're collaborating with other organizations, 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. Read more.

Sustainable lives

  • Women are the driving force behind the apparel industry and our brand. Approximately 80% of our customers are women, as are the majority of our employees and the people who make our clothes. Read more.
  • Our global Inspiring Women campaign engaged 78% of our employees in Brazil, Mexico and our sourcing countries in raising awareness of gender equality. It raised nearly €400,000 for charities helping to empower women. Read more.
  • We contribute to strengthening communities with a focus on mothers and children, through our store giving and donations to Save the Children and our efforts in disaster relief. One of the projects supported by C&A’s customer donations was Vos Hestia, Save the Children's Mediterranean search and rescue ship. Between its launch in September 2016 and the end of November 2016, Save the Children helped to rescue over 2,600 refugees and migrants, including over 400 children, pregnant women and newborn babies. 90% of the children rescued were unaccompanied.
    Read more

 

 

 

SDG #6 – Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all

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. 2016 is the second 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. Drawing on the results of multiple studies undertaken by the Water Footprint Network with funding from C&A Foundation and our work with Aligned Incentives, we have improved the granularity of the data in our 2016 water footprint estimate, providing a more complete picture of our embedded water use impacts covering both water consumption and water pollution at every stage of the production process and value chain. The following are the outcomes how we have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy:

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 about the benefits of organic cotton and our water savings.
  • We are a founding member of CottonConnect and have more recently joined the Organic Cotton Accelerator and the Better Cotton Initiative. All three are industry-wide initiatives that support cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices including using less water.

Sustainable supply

  • Comparing 2015 to 2016, we have achieved a 27.7% reduction in blue and green water across our life cycle. Blue water is the surface or groundwater used to grow crops and green water is the total rainwater or soil moisture needed to harvest a crop. Read more.
  • 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 2016, we achieved our goal to audit over 100 mills. Read more.

 

 

SDG #8 - Decent work and economic growth

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

Goal 8 calls for more jobs that not only provide decent pay but 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 we have C&A stores and offices.  The following are the outcomes how we have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy:

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. They include: building and fire safety, freedom of association, undisclosed production, and working hours and compensation. Read more.
  • We are actively involved in ACT, a global initiative on Action, Collaboration, Transformation to unite stakeholders in improving wages through industry collective bargaining in key production countries, world-class manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices to lift the wage floor.
  • Working with our suppliers, we want to help build capacity and ownership of the issues they face. We have rolled out our bespoke Supplier Ownership Programme to management staff from another 10 suppliers taking the total to 24. Together, they have responsibility for approx. 60,000 workers.    
  • To move beyond compliance and towards continuous improvement we must also empower workers' to act. 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 worker’s rights can be unknown. We are changing that through supporting fair contracts and social dialogue. Read more about supplier and worker engagement.

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 about how we engage our employees.

SDG #12 – Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 12 wants to make us 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 all products are circular fashion products, designed with their next use in mind. Our vision is a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing. The following are the outcomes how we have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy:

Sustainable products

  • In 2016, C&A worked hard to make circular fashion a reality. The first GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirt will hit our stores in Europe, Brazil and Mexico in Summer 2017. These recyclable T-shirts are made of 100% organic cotton, with safe materials and chemicals and are produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Even the stitching is made from organic cotton and the dyes are 100% non toxic, allowing it to be fully compostable. Read more about the T-shirt and how we are partnering to create change.

  • For the fourth 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.
  • We continue to develop other innovative clothing collections including sustainable denim made with organic cotton and recycled PET made from plastic bottles. Read more.

Sustainable supply

  • Our Sustainable Chemicals Management strategy is guiding our work to eliminate hazardous chemicals from our supply chain by 2020. Our newly launched GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ T-shirt plays a vital role in the certification of safe chemistry. The T-shirt is designed and made with fewer, safer chemicals, and complements our overall approach to better chemical management by demonstrating that zero discharge of hazardous chemicals is possible. Read more about our work on chemicals.

Sustainable lives

  • Beyond the new products we sell, we're enabling our customers to take further actions in-store. We’ve been running a Take-back clothes recycling programme in the Netherlands since 2012. As part of our commitment to moving towards circular fashion, C&A will be expanding the programme to Europe, Brazil, Mexico and China in 2017/18. Read more.

SDG #13 – Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

 

Goal 13 is about finding solutions to climate change. It will take actions from all of us to create a significant impact. We're working to reduce our carbon emissions across our value chain. In 2016, we completed our second detailed, scientific life cycle assessment, to better understand where our impacts lie and where we can make the greatest contribution. Thanks to improvements in the modeling involved in our estimates, we have been able to set a new and more accurate baseline to measure our reductions going forward.  The following are the outcomes how we have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy:

 

Sustainable products

 

  • We actively source organic and Better Cotton towards our goal for 100% more sustainable cotton. Cotton is in 56% of our clothing, so it's where we can have the biggest impact. We're over half way towards meeting our goal, 53% of the cotton we source is more sustainable and with that comes many benefits. Read more.
  • We have joined the Organic Cotton Accelerator and the Better Cotton Initiative to support more 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.

 

Sustainable supply

  • Our cornerstone goal to sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton, including organic cotton and Better Cotton, underpins our approach to combatting climate change. Approximately 6% of our total GHG emissions are created through agriculture and so best tackled through sourcing more sustainable cotton. When compared with conventional cotton, our sustainable cotton mix in 2016 contributes 12% less CO2 emissions. Read more.
  • Textile production is the largest source of emissions in our supply chain, accounting for 40% of our total emissions. We have been a member of the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT) since 2013. PaCT focuses on cleaning up the wet processing industry in Bangladesh, where we sourced nearly 30% of our total volume of product in 2016. In the same year, the partnership saved 1.8million MWh of energy, avoiding 275,000 tonnes of COemissions. Working with PaCT, and other initiatives like the Better Mills Initiative, while rapidly scaling our Sustainable Chemicals Management programme will further reduce our  impacts on climate change. Read more about carbon and chemicals.
  • The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 20% of our total carbon footprint. However, given the high variability in the use and care of apparel around the globe, this value is currently only an estimate. We are still trying to understand the main levers and methods where C&A and the rest of the apparel brands can contribute to reductions in consumer use through less washing or drying.

SDG #17 – Partnership for the goals

Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalise partnerships for sustainable development

This goal recognises that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between 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 organizations, to drive coherence throughout the value chain and work towards achieving the global goals. We participate in multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources in support of the SDGs. A full list of our partnerships can be viewed here.

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