We want to bring sustainable fashion to the mainstream. That’s why we strive to make our clothes responsibly and sustainably, and to make it highly visible in our collections. This means that we’re always looking to make the best choices we can for our customers, so they don’t have to choose between what’s sustainable and what’s not. We focus on a variety of sustainable and recycled fibre sources, pioneer new circular fashion products, and ensure that the workers in our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect. In 2017, over 40% of the clothing offered in our stores was more sustainable and was certified or verified to credible third-party standards.
Our cornerstone commitment to certified organic cotton supports the sector, as does our work sourcing Better Cotton, buying 100% of our down from the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) and the viscose we source through the CanopyStyle initiative. By shifting a significant part of the market, we can begin to make sustainability the new normal.
We made good progress towards our 2020 goals in 2017, sourcing 67% of our cotton more sustainably and creating the world’s first affordable GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products. Our strong record of driving positive change in the apparel industry, together with a 177-year history of giving our customers the best clothing, makes us confident that we can achieve our ambitious goals. To succeed we will need to continually consolidate our approaches, accelerate our efforts and keep challenging the status quo.
We want a future where sustainable apparel isn’t the alternative – it’s the norm. We can help create this by always working in a way that respects people, nature and the environment. Normalising sustainability means reimagining production processes throughout our supply chain. The fashion industry must embrace the circular economy, starting with designing products for their next use, while protecting ecosystems and providing dignified work for people. Products will be designed and created for their next life, and fashion will have a positive impact on our planet and its people.
Our 2020 goals put us on the right track to achieving this ambition. We strive to:
of our cotton will be more sustainable by 2020.
of all our raw materials, such as cotton, viscose and polyester will be from more sustainable sources by 2020.
Continually increase Cradle-to-Cradle-CertifiedTM products in our retail markets.
Support circular innovations in our value chain through our partnership with Fashion for Good.
Toward 100% more sustainable cotton
Our goal to use 100% more sustainable cotton forms the cornerstone of our approach to sustainability. Cotton is the raw material we use the most worldwide, making up 57% of the materials we use (or approximately 120,000 metric tons in 2016). That means our work on sustainable cotton makes a significant contribution to reducing our overall carbon, water and chemicals footprint throughout our value chain.
We continued to work on improving our supply of organic cotton in 2017. For example, we have been working with the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), implementation partner CottonConnect and supplier Pratibha Syntex to launch a sourcing pilot in India with 300 farmers who are part of C&A Foundation’s Organic Cotton programme. The aim of this pilot is twofold: to improve the business case of organic cotton for smallholder farmers, and to enhance the integrity of organic cotton at farm level through securing fibre at source and improving farming practices. The cotton produced is expected to represent a million pieces across different product categories in 2018.
Because we’re determined to meet our goal while underlining our commitment to industry collaboration, we source Better Cotton in addition to organic cotton.
100% responsibly sourced down
In 2016, we reached our target of sourcing 100% RDS-certified down and have continued in 2017. To take our commitment one step further, in 2017 we have conducted visits to RDS-certified suppliers that had supplied C&A in the previous 12 months. We wanted to better understand how the standard was implemented and where improvements could be made. We were pleased to confirm that RDS is effective in preventing many harmful practices including force feeding and live plucking. However, we also found that the standard could be improved to ensure requirements are detailed enough in countries where animal welfare legislation is less strong. We have shared the findings of our investigation with Textile Exchange, and are working with them to drive improvements to the standard. We are also consolidating our down supply chain to work with fewer suppliers. C&A remains committed to the RDS as the best way to source our down responsibly.
Starting our journey with recycled fibres
In 2017, C&A Europe started taking meaningful steps to increase our use of recycled fibres in our collection. We have used recycled polyester in outerwear and blouses, recycled nylon in lingerie and have continued using recycled cotton in denim.
Protecting natural resources
Having made significant strides in sourcing sustainable cotton, our most-used material, we are now focusing on man-made cellulosics such as viscose, which comprise 7.5% of the fabric we use.
Following our commitment to the CanopyStyle initiative and adopting a Forest & Fabric policy in 2015, C&A Europe and C&A China committed in 2017 to source all man-made cellulosic fibres from producers that are third-party verified suppliers of cellulosics and have been confirmed as ‘low risk’ of controversial fibre.
C&A Brazil launched a pilot to understand how our Forest & Fabric policy can be implemented in its domestic supply chains, and found that suppliers’ management systems needed to be improved in order to comply. We plan further rollout of the approach in our Brazilian supply chain in 2018.
Read more about our work on man-made cellulosics