Our Strategy Mainstreaming sustainability to become the new normal

At C&A, we want to bring sustainability to the mainstream. We want our customers to trust us to do the right thing, so they can buy our products without having to worry about how they were made.

 

In 2015, we developed our first global sustainability strategy towards 2020 that would embed sustainability across our business and increase our sustainability leadership in our retail markets. Through creating this global alignment on the top-level goals, we have also created flexibility in how the goals are achieved in our retail markets, to meet local needs and to drive innovation.

Our pillars translated into measurable goals

To achieve our vision of fashion with a positive impact, our sustainability work is focused on areas that are the most relevant for our business and where we can have the biggest impact – our products, our supply chain and people’s lives. 

Sustainable Products

We don’t want our customers to have to choose between what’s sustainable and what’s not. To ensure that we can achieve this vision, sustainability is an integral part of how we design and source our clothing. We focus on sustainable materials – especially cotton, one of our largest volume raw materials. We ensure that our clothing has been sourced and made in a way that respects people, the environment and animals.

To succeed in our goals, we recognize that we must collaborate across the industry to create a movement towards doing more good and creating innovative and open-source circular models for garment production.

Learn more about how we're building sustainable products and working in collaboration

Learn more about our approach to the circular economy

Sustainable Supply

The apparel supply chain is complex: C&A’s encompasses around 1 million people, employed through 757 global suppliers, with more than 2,000 production units. That means our supply chain accounts for a significant proportion of our footprint: for example, 90% of our water footprint. This is why our focus on the supply chain is so important. We focus much of our efforts on sustainable agriculture, supply chain social and environmental performance, and how innovation can revolutionise the production system.

Learn more about how we're developing sustainable supply chains

Learn more about our work in sustainable agriculture

Sustainable Lives

C&A is a global retail fashion company that touches the lives of 51,000 employees, 1 million apparel workers and 100 million customers each year. What we do and the way we do it has a large impact on many different groups of people. That is why we focus on empowering our customers to make more sustainable shopping decisions, support the livelihoods of the workers in our supply chain and seek to engage our employees and create sustainability ambassadors.

Learn more about how we're promoting sustainable lives

Learn how we are impacting the lives of the workers in our supply chain

Developing our strategy

Defining our material issues

We developed our current sustainability strategy in 2015, which involved a detailed materiality assessment. The four steps involved in the development of our strategy are summarised below. We evaluate this mapping each year to ensure that new material issues and impacts are identified and included in our strategic review.

Read about our material issues

Research: We interviewed 40 key stakeholders, including development experts, researchers, and business leaders. We reviewed our historical sustainability performance, data from our Life Cycle Assessment and research generated by customer interviews and focus groups.

Value chain impacts: We worked with external experts to develop a hybrid Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) model to fully understand the water and carbon footprint of our value chain. We also determined our social impacts through our Sustainable Supply Chain programmes and our human rights impact assessment. 

Exploration: To determine those areas where we could make the biggest impact, we evaluated the success of existing C&A sustainability programmes and forecast industry trends over a 15-year period. Key initiatives like the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights informed this exploration.

Strategy: Using our material issues as an input, we developed our integrated sustainability strategy. It has three pillars: Sustainable Products, Sustainable Supply, and Sustainable Lives. We strive to address and include all material issues within our sustainability framework. Other issues, such as quality, product safety and responsible marketing remain part of our core business approach. 

We are continuously reviewing and developing our material issues and our strategies for addressing them. This ongoing review is based on our progress towards our goals, and the changing conditions of the world around us. In 2017, several important developments occurred that influenced our ongoing strategy:

  • Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh: As the refugees of the northern Rakhine State of Myanmar fled from their homes, C&A evaluated its sourcing strategy in Myanmar. We engaged other brands and the Government of Myanmar on the issue. We continue to source from Myanmar, but are carefully monitoring the situation to determine whether changes in our strategy should be made. C&A Foundation has supported this region for many years, and took the decision in February 2018 to pause philanthropic work in Myanmar and increase support to the growing refugee population in Bangladesh.
    Read more about our response to the refugee crisis
  • Increased focus on the circular economy: As the topic of the circular economy becomes more important in the fashion industry, we are creating additional commitments to develop Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products and to deeply engage the innovators of Fashion for Good to accelerate and scale circular technologies in our supply chain.
    Read more about our approach to the circular economy
  • Science-based climate targets: To contribute to the commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change, C&A will create science-based climate targets for our value chain, including our Scope 3 emissions. We have started to model our impacts to begin setting our goals beyond 2020.
    Read more about how we combat climate change
  • UN Women’s Empowerment Principles: Because women are so important to our business – and make up the majority of our customers, employees and supply chain workers – we have committed to creating action plans on gender parity and the empowerment of women for all retail markets, starting in 2017.
    Read more about our new commitment
  • Approaches to excessive working hours: Apparel workers are often subject to long working hours, due in part to the way that clothing is purchased by brands. In 2016, we developed a stringent policy on the avoidance of excessive working hours. In 2017, we examined the approach and recognised that it was not driving the change that we wanted to see. In 2018, we will focus on purchasing practices and supplier ownership to drive additional progress on this important topic.
    Read more about how we are reducing excessive working hours

    Read more about stakeholder engagement
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