Listening to our customers Understanding our customers better

Our annual sustainability consumer insights survey, in partnership with GlobeScan, helps us listen to and act on the issues that matter most to our customers. The insights we gain from the survey guide how we speak to our customers about sustainability in our products and campaigns – ultimately leading to a better sustainability strategy that not only reduces impact and risk, but is also tailored to their concerns. 

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2016 was the second year we ran the survey, asking over 6,000 customers in C&A’s six key markets – Brazil, China, France, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands – about their priorities and expectations for sustainability.1 Here are selected insights from the 2016 results.

Our sustainability reputation

Our goal is for C&A to be recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in all our regions. In 2016, we were recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in Brazil, strengthening our leadership position in this important market compared to 2015. Our strong position in Germany and the Netherlands continued and we have strengthened our scores in China, Mexico and France.

When survey respondents were prompted to consider C&A’s performance in detail, they scored us favourably across a range of sustainability issues. 

  • “C&A is concerned about the environment and the eradication of slave labor in Brazil, they are being a pioneer on this issue.” (C&A customer, Brazil)
  • “More and more clothes present a special cotton label indicating that the piece of garment is produced sustainably.” (C&A customer, the Netherlands)
  • “Because their jeans are Mexican and at this moment we must consume national products to revive the economy.”(C&A customer, Mexico)
  • “They make T-shirts and jumpers in organic cotton.” (C&A customer, France)
  • “The materials that are used are produced fairly and sustainably, without pollutants.” (C&A customer, Germany)

Their positive responses when prompted show that we have a significant opportunity to improve the spontaneous recognition of our work. However, ‘communicating more on sustainability’ remains among the top three requests from consumers, in order to build trust. This means we need to build on the campaigns we’ve worked on this year and better integrate sustainability into our brand communications. The 2016 survey also showed us that one of the main drivers of our sustainability reputation in Europe is organic cotton – our area of longstanding leadership.

What customers care about

Our survey asked customers about the sustainability issues they care about and expect us to be addressing. Although the issues raised varied across regions, some core priorities were common to customers across the world.

Globally, the top five issues remained unchanged compared to 2015:

  • Sourcing responsibly and ensuring fair treatment for workers
  • Openness and honesty
  • Pollution and climate change
  • Water
  • Fair trade


The issues that drive C&A’s sustainability reputation

Our 2016 performance

A core part of our sustainability commitment is to help our customers look good, feel good and do good. The survey gives us strong insights into how we can bring our customers along with us on our sustainability journey. In 2016 our customers told us what we have been doing right, and what we need to focus on in the future.

Priority issue

How we responded to customers’ 2015 feedback

What customers told us in 2016

Responsible sourcing and product sustainability

A strong priority for customers in 2015. In response, we launched campaigns on organic cotton, responsible down and more sustainable denim across our regions.

Although we were seen as champions of responsible sourcing in Mexico, China and Brazil in 2015, we have found it more challenging to communicate our activities in this area to customers in Europe.

Remained a clear priority for customers in 2016.

Customers told us they see our strong leadership in organic cotton, and that they want to know more about where their products come from.

Read more about sustainable products



Fair and ethical workplaces and treating employees well

Consumers told us they want to know more about the origins of their products – a core driver of C&A’s reputation in all our markets.

In 2015 we started disclosing the names and addresses of our suppliers' tier-1 production units (PUs).  

Remained a priority for customers across the world in 2016. 

We have extended the scope to second tier PUs with this report. In June 2017 we will publish our tier-1 and tier-2 PUs globally.

Read more about safe and fair labour

See our suppliers' factory disclosure map

Charity work that makes a difference in local communities


Although we scored well on our charitable giving in 2015, customers told us that our charity work in local retail communities could be more focused.

In reponse, we focused many of our customer donation programmes on our partnership with Save the Children. We also identified local charities as recipients of the funds raised through our Inspiring Women campaign. 

An increased priority for customers in 2016 compared to 2015. 

Our hard work in this area has paid off: C&A’s scores improved in all regions in 2016.

Read more about our charitable partnerships 

Engaged employees who enable sustainable living

In 2015 our customers asked that we make sure our store employees are aware and engaged so they can share their knowledge about our sustainability journey with them.

Every consumer campaign we run at C&A is supported by internal communications and employee engagement, allowing in-store colleagues to bring our messages to life.

In 2016 we ran our employee engagement campaign, Inspiring Women, in Brazil, Mexico and our Asian sourcing countries. In May 2017 we continued the Inspiring Women campaign in Europe and China.

An ongoing priority for customers in 2016. 

Employee engagement continued to be a strong driver of C&A’s reputation on sustainability in 2016, with customers in China and Brazil recognising C&A’s sustainability commitments through employees.

Read more about employee engagement 

Aligning sustainability communications with the C&A brand

In 2015 our customers told us that they would like us to communicate more about what we’re doing on sustainability. We responded in 2016 with campaigns on organic cotton in Europe, Brazil and China and on certified responsible down in Europe.

The 2016 survey delivered even greater insight. While C&A is not the leader in sustainable fashion retail in all regions, many more consumers believe that our performance is good when questioned more closely.

That means one of our priorities for 2017 must be to align our sustainability communications with brand communications.

Leveraging our reputation for openness and honesty

Our 2015 survey showed that customers perceive C&A as open and honest – and that this was a core driver of our reputation in sustainability. This was underlined in the 2016 survey, which showed an increase in customers prioritising openness.

According to GlobeScan, our survey partner, being seen as open and honest is more often a challenge for companies than a strength. We will build on our positive reputation for openness and honesty to help our customers better understand the origins of our products – both in-store and online – and engage with our sustainability efforts more widely. As a family company that has been trusted by generations of consumers for over 175 years, we are determined to create a deeper and more direct connection with consumers on our sustainability.

Countering cynicism around sustainability

According to our GlobeScan survey, consumer distrust of companies’ sustainability claims has increased globally since last year. This isn’t a challenge specific to C&A, but it is concerning for us nonetheless. We are countering this by being more transparent about what we are doing and the challenges we face, as well as continuing to communicate how our values and ethics guide us.

Next steps

We will continue communicating on the sustainability topics that are relevant for our customers, and take our product storytelling to the next level. For C&A to truly break through and engage our consumers, we need to activate these communications at multiple levels.

1 Customer research was conducted online in November-December 2016. Sample sizes: Brazil = 1,000, China = 1,002, France = 1,001, Germany = 1,001, Mexico = 1,003, Netherlands = 1,001

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