C&A is a global retail fashion company that touches the lives of approximately 51,000 employees, over 1 million apparel workers, and more than 100 million store visitors each year. What we do – and the way we do it – has a significant impact on many different groups of people. We focus on strengthening communities, promoting positive actions, and giving back.
We seek to empower our employees to be sustainability ambassadors in our offices and stores, enabling our customers to undertake more sustainable actions. Our focus on Inspiring Women (our flagship employee engagement campaign) recognised how women are the driving force behind the apparel industry and our brand: 80% of our employees are women, and approximately the same percentage is true of the workers in our supply chain and the customers who shop with us. We remain deeply committed to empowering women in our supply chain and among our customers.
In 2018, our successful Inspiring Women initiative made way for Inspiring World, a new global campaign that encourages our employees to share their visions of a better world and includes them in championing our 2020 sustainability goals. During the year, 65% of all employees participated in the Inspiring World campaign, a testament to their commitment to fashion with a positive impact.
Making sustainability the new normal
We want our customers to feel good about shopping at C&A, and our employees to feel proud of our contribution to the community, society, and environment. Our goal is for C&A to be recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand across our regions: something we are proud to have achieved in Brazil for the third year in a row and in the Netherlands for the fourth year in a row. We also achieved this recognition in Germany during 2018.
Our goal is for C&A to be recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in all our regions. In 2018, we were once again recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in Brazil, the Netherlands, and Germany. The 2018 survey also showed that our use of Bio Cotton and other natural and organic materials remains one of the key reasons C&A is recognised as a sustainability leader in Europe.
Creating fashion with a positive impact doesn’t end with our employees and customers. It extends into the communities where C&A colleagues, customers and garment workers live too. We’ll foster more sustainable lives in these communities, through safe, fair, resilient, and inspiring work environments where everyone feels connected and able to take action.
Our customers shouldn't have to choose between looking good, feeling good, and doing good. They deserve great fashion that's also good for the people who make their clothes, and good for the environment. No decision or trade-off should be necessary, and there should be no extra cost to the customer – or the people who make their clothes.
C&A employees are not only key to the success of the business, but are also the way we enable our customers to contribute to good causes and understand more about sustainability. We want every employee to feel engaged and supported, take pride in their work, believe in our company values, and be enthusiastic about engaging our customers. In the future, we look forward to every employee being in a position to drive sustainability, whether it’s through sourcing and buying, or connecting with customers in our stores.
Many of our operations take place in areas facing serious environmental and social challenges. We aim to create strong, resilient communities where we live and source, to support the many workers who create our products. To this end, we believe that engagement with local organisations and communities is the most effective way to create positive and far-reaching change and giving back is one of the most valuable things we can do.
Continuously increase employee sustainability engagement scores by creating a culture of sustainability among employees.
Establish and achieve key goals in our Women’s Empowerment Principles action plan.
We will work to ensure C&A is recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand.
Engaging customers in sustainable fashion
Throughout 2018, we leveraged #WearTheChange to communicate with — and engage — our customers in the journey towards making sustainable fashion the new normal. In two markets, Brazil and China, #WearTheChange has been localised and translated for use in multi-faceted outreach campaigns in stores, online, and through creative consumer-facing events, as well as internal communications to inspire further employee involvement and make sure our employees have the information they need to be sustainability ambassadors.
Engaging our employees on sustainability
During 2018, we evolved our successful three-year Inspiring Women campaign to the Inspiring World campaign, which aligns even more closely with our 2020 sustainability strategy of creating sustainable products, a sustainable supply, and sustainable lives. The new campaign rolled out mid-2018 in partnership with C&A Foundation.
The first year of Inspiring World engaged our employees in all four regions. More than 32,600 employees, representing 21 countries, participated, providing ideas about the topics most important to them, such as peace, equality, and justice. They also selected 45 charities to share €1 million in donations from C&A Foundation, benefitting more than 250,000 people.
In 2018, we again surveyed employees about what C&A is doing with respect to sustainability and how employees can contribute. Results were positive, paving the way towards fostering even more sustainability ambassadors among our global employees.
Advancing the Women’s Empowerment Principles
Since we announced that C&A had signed the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2018, C&A headquarters and our four regions have developed market-specific roadmaps to drive progress implementing the principles according to a set of 12 questions we developed for each principle.
Renewing our partnership with Save the Children through C&A Foundation
In 2018, we renewed our partnership with Save the Children for three more years and another €10 million. We also worked closely with Save the Children and C&A Foundation to learn from our previous experiences together and design the next phase of our partnership to improve its effectiveness and apply those lessons to strengthening how C&A works with other NGOs in unique partnerships.
Employee Code of Ethics
Our Employee Code of Ethics serves as the standard that guides behaviour and establishes what we expect at C&A. We continued to implement it globally during 2018 and 2019, with the regions determining the most effective way to implement and engage employees in the Code. For instance, in late 2018, C&A Mexico provided employees with training to refresh the information, and includes Code of Ethics training to all new employees during their onboarding.
In Brazil, our employees get to know the Code of Ethics when they join the company through our induction process for new employees. C&A Brazil also has an e-learning programme about the Code of Ethics in our internal training platform Academia da Moda. The course, which is being updated for 2019, will include mini-trainings focused on key topics that represent greater risk, and will further reinforce C&A values to employees.
Also during 2018, C&A Brazil improved the structure of the Ethics and Conduct Committee through the Ethics Management department, which was created in April of 2018 to guide adherence to company values and principles, as well as manage the Fairness Channel and respond to potential breaches of the Code. During the year, the Ethics Committee also conducted 11 Webex training sessions with store employees on various Code of Ethics topics, whilst a broader ethics campaign communicated with employees about the Code.
In Mexico, refresher training was provided on the Code of Ethics to current employees in late 2018. In addition, all new employees receive training on the Code of Ethics as part of their onboarding.
C&A China conducted e-learning on the Code of Ethics for new and existing employees. All new employees completed the online training and test, as well as 98% of headquarters office staff and 100% of store employees.
Inspiring Women to Inspiring World
2017 was the third and final year of our Inspiring Women campaign, which helped raise funds for 70 organisations working to empower tens of thousands of women around the world. Inspiring Women also achieved employee participation rates of up to 47%, well above typical company engagement programmes. In 2018, the campaign evolved to Inspiring World, which has a broader scope that more closely aligns with our sustainability framework.
Carefully designed with the input of employees themselves, Inspiring World strives to help C&A employees feel proud of our company, values, and efforts to make the world a better and more sustainable place. Over time, the impact of the Inspiring World campaign will be twofold:
During the year, 65% of all employees participated in the campaign, 18% more than had participated in the 2017 campaign. Accordingly, donations to charities increased significantly, from €573,940 in 2017 to €1,001,150 in 2018.
Supporting families and communities
We renewed our previous three-year global humanitarian partnership with Save the Children and C&A Foundation for another three years. In 2018 alone, with the support of C&A Foundation and C&A, Save the Children was able to reach more than 8 million people, of which around 4 million are children. Significant yearly funding of €3.36 million from C&A Foundation towards Save the Children for the next 3 years — from 2018 to 2020 — will contribute to amplify the scope of the partnership.
In this next phase, the three organizations will deepen their commitment to Disaster Relief and Recovery (DRR) and humanitarian response activities, of which Child Friendly Spaces are a crucial element. These protected environments are set up in communities affected by disaster and crisis and give children the chance to play, make friends, learn, and express themselves, helping them to heal from physical and mental suffering many have experienced.
C&A is also involving employees and customers in supporting the partnership, adding resources to further contribute to safety, justice, and comfort for children and families.
Between January 2018 and February 2019, C&A Europe and C&A Mexico raised a total of €1,333,141 for Save the Children through cause-related marketing, emergency appeals, and other initiatives.
Every sustainable lifestyle is different
We are a global fashion retail company made up of four regions and encompassing many different cultures, people, and societies. We believe that deep engagement with local issues is the most effective way to normalise sustainable behaviours across our different regions. That means we guide the ‘why’ and ‘what’ through our 2020 global sustainability framework, and allow the regions to deliver the ‘how’ in ways that make sense to them at a local level.
Building on the success of the 2018 Inspiring World launch, our five-year employee engagement plan includes identifying additional sustainability ambassadors, offering them empowerment roles to help us build further momentum among all employees, creating further opportunities for employee ownership of sustainability initiatives, and ultimately enlisting their ideas for developing the next iteration of our sustainability engagement strategy.