Although we aim to make the most sustainable choices on behalf of our customers, we can only do so much on our own. We are looking at ways we can use our position on sustainability to do more to engage our customers in-store – so that sustainability can become something we all do together, every day.
Targeting plastic bags in Germany
As many as one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year [Source: EPA] and they represent a major source of pollution and threat to sea life. As part of a voluntary commitment with the German retail association HDE, C&A introduced a fee of 20 cents for plastic bags in Germany in April 2016. We were amazed at the results: plastic bag use dropped by 67% in a year. C&A also charges for plastic bags in Austria and paper bags in France.
Recycling clothes in the Netherlands
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.
C&A customers in our Dutch stores can get a 5% discount voucher for donating old clothing of any brand under the slogan, ‘Bring your old clothes to C&A and give them a second life’. Our recycling partner, I:CO, an international apparel and shoe recycling expert, decides which items can be sold again on the second-hand market, and which can be recycled to create raw materials for new products. For every kilo of garments or shoes collected, I:CO makes a donation to the organisation CharityStar, which supports underprivileged European communities. Since its launch in 2012, our customers have donated over 240,000 kilograms of clothing.
We are also looking into reusing and recycling unsellable merchandise: in 2016, 500 tonnes of this type of clothing was recycled by Vökotex.
While we have in-store Take-back in the Netherlands, we still have a long way to go with regards to rolling this out in other markets. We need government support and legislation that facilitates this and industry wide collaboration.
Recycling electronic equipment in Brazil
In Brazil, we sell cell phones in addition to clothing, and we have shared responsibility for taking back and disposing appropriately of cell phones and batteries. We work with GM&Clog, who collect the waste and make sure it gets to the correct destination. We have an e-learning programme to all store staff to help to raise awareness of this issue. In 2016, 68,795 items were collected in our stores, up from 64,451 in 2015.
Highlights of our in-store actions included:
Towards circular fashion
Our ambition is to move towards circular fashion. Taking back clothes from customers is just one aspect of a new circular system. With our new GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirt we are showing how a product can be designed to reuse materials, while improving the social conditions throughout the value chain.
Europe: Take-back programme
We hope to roll out our Take-back programme in other European countries in 2017 and will evaluate the possibility of a further roll out in other locations in the future.