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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: