Helping our customers feel good about buying and wearing our products is critical: they support our work creating positive change in the apparel industry with the purchasing decisions they make. Our clothes are made with respect for people, the environment and animals; for example, one in two cotton items in our stores are more sustainable. We want our customers to feel proud of the products they buy from us. Not only that, but by raising awareness of important issues, such as the need for more sustainable cotton, we can help them make purchasing decisions that create change.
Making more sustainable products the new normal
We want all our products to be the best they can be, designed, sourced and made with sustainability in mind. C&A is one of the world-leading buyers of certified organic cotton and Better Cotton; we now sell more clothes made with sustainable cotton than with conventional cotton. 53% of the cotton we sold in 2016 was either certified organic cotton (33%) or Better Cotton (20%). We also spent a big part of the year developing our first circular fashion collections that launched in stores in June 2017. Our GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirts are made of 100% certified organic cotton, using only safe chemicals and produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. The T-shirts can be returned to nature via home composting. Designed with their end of life in mind, these cutting-edge, affordable circular T-shirts are accessible to everyone – we hope they pave a different way forward for the apparel industry.
Europe: communicating and engaging
When our customers asked us to communicate more about our sustainability efforts, we heard them loud and clear. We started communicating about our new 100% Responsible Down Standard-certified down puffer jackets in-store using hangtags and on social media, Instagram and Facebook to let our customers know that their ‘puffer jacket for any occasion’ was also made to a global standard on down.
Our 2016 denim range was designed with sustainability at front of mind. Denim products were made out of organic cotton, recycled denim, or made with an average use of 65% less water in the finishing process. And, through the C&A website, we advised customers on how to preserve the fit of their favourite jeans by washing them less often – a change that also saves water and carbon.
In 2017, we will continue with hangtags and point-of-sale advertising with our own organic cotton label to promote our organic cotton products in Europe, and run campaigns on social media to further spread the word.
Brazil: helping change perceptions of sustainability
Our customers in Brazil often view sustainability as confusing or boring. We set out to help change that with our Lindo e Sustentavel (‘Beautiful and Sustainable’) more sustainable denim collection, launched in March 2016. The special collection was launched after comprehensive supply chain engagement, and was made using innovative processes in mills, sewing, dyeing and laundries that reduced water consumption and the use of chemicals. In total, we reduced water consumption in the collection by 92% in dyeing and 30% in laundry – and 60% of the water used in the laundry was reused.
One of the items in the More Sustainable Denim line – a pair of denim overalls – was a best-selling product in 2016 of the whole denim collection. C&A Brazil was recognised by Amcham-Brasil and won their prestigious Prêmio Eco (‘Eco Prize’) for sustainability in products or services.
In October 2016, C&A Brazil launched a special campaign on more sustainable cotton, with communication on social media and in-store. Store employees received training and an e-learning programme to help them engage customers on this topic.
China: cultivating organic cotton
C&A China launched its more sustainable range of T-shirts in June 2016 to grow consumer demand for its home-grown more sustainable products. This new approach has made the range accessible to Chinese-speaking customers online and in 80% of our China stores.
Early signs have been good: 89% of shoppers said the more sustainable collection gave them a more positive view of C&A [SOURCE: GlobeScan survey] and the campaign gained considerable media coverage. Since the campaign, C&A China has been communicating regularly about sustainability through its social media channels and is working on creating a new sustainable collection for Spring/Summer 2017.
The path to transparency
Our customers want us to be more transparent about where their clothes come from, so they can trust that we are making the right choices for them. We’re tackling this through our communications in-store and online. However, with trust falling in sustainability claims overall, we understand that we must continue to make a concerted effort to improve how we connect authentic and emotive information to our customers. To make a real difference to many of the social and environmental issues in apparel, we need to play our part in shifting the entire industry – and the only way we’ll do this is through collaboration.
Global sustainability messaging
Our communications approaches are localised to ensure we’re talking to our regional customers about issues that they care about. We learned in 2015 that although there are some differences between countries, there are often core issues that are of importance to everyone. As a result, in 2016, we’ve been working on global sustainability messaging that can be tailored to different markets. Our organic cotton campaign was the first example of this at C&A, and our new GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle certifiedTM T-shirt range is the latest product that we plan to roll out globally.
GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirts
Our GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirts were introduced in-store in Europe in June 2017, and will be launched in Brazil and Mexico in September.
Europe: organic cotton campaign
Spring 2017 saw the launch of our organic (BIO) cotton campaign across all our European stores. The campaign ran in-store, online and also via social media and was designed to draw attention to our position as the world’s largest retailer of organic cotton.