With the global population set to reach nine billion people by 2030, nature will struggle to meet human demands like never before. That means there’s an urgent need to achieve our goal of making circularity the norm across the value chain.
Sustainability means rethinking how we design our products for their next use. We want to evolve the apparel industry to a future where every material is used and reused safely, where ecosystems are protected and where people are provided with dignified work. This means making products that are ‘made with their next use in mind’ and where we no longer talk about ‘end of life,’ but rather ‘end of use.’ This is the philosophy of circular fashion.
For the apparel sector to become truly circular, each part of the value chain must evolve. We are partnering with Fashion for Good to bring this aspiration to life.
In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation released a new report, entitled A New Textiles Economy. The report demonstrates the growing momentum in the industry to move towards a circular economy, and gives us a strong environmental, social and business case for doing so:
Throughout the value chain – from raw material extraction to end of use – the apparel sector has a huge impact on the environment. To truly create the pathway to a new normal, we must reimagine much of what we do.
In a circular model, products are designed and developed with their next use in mind. This means they are produced with pure materials, using safe chemicals. This way, fibres can be reclaimed at the end of the garment’s use to be reused or recycled into new clothing, carpets or other products – or safely returned to nature through composting. Social justice, including safeguarding health and safety and fair labour, water stewardship and the use of renewable energy, are also an integral part of the circular model.
In 2018, we have joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Make Fashion Circular initiative as a participant to to mobilise the recommendations of the report, and turn theory into action. The Make Fashion Circular initative drives collaboration between industry leaders and other key stakeholders to create a textiles economy fit for the 21st century. Its ambition is to ensure clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, new business models increase their use, and old clothes are turned into new.
We believe in ‘circular fashion’. Our vision is one of a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing.
We believe that there are six enablers of a circular fashion industry and are currently working on all of them through our own programmes or in partnership with Fashion for Good. Our commitment is demonstrated through our GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products – all supported by our emerging in-store take-back programme that allows customers to recycle clothing that has reached its end of use. The following graphic explains the areas of focus required to drive a circular fashion industry, but more importantly where we need to partner for systemic change.
To become a partner of Fashion for Good, focused on incubating and accelerating circular technologies in the apparel industry – aiming to create endless flows of fibres and clothing.
Develop and launch the first circular collections in our retail stores.
Launch our in-store take-back programme in new geographies.
Pioneering circularity in stores
In 2017, C&A brought the first GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products to market in stores across Europe, Brazil and Mexico. We have since developed many new products and collections, which reached the selling floor later in the year. In total we have brought over 1.3 million pieces of Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM apparel to market so far.
In 2017, we also expanded the Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM collection from Ladies to include Men, Kids and Teens, and have brought to market new innovations such as stripes, embroideries, and prints to add richness to our offer.
Following its successful launch in the Netherlands, we rolled out our in-store take-back programme to four additional retail markets – Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and a pilot in Brazil – with a view to expanding the programme further by 2020.
Accelerating change through Fashion for Good
In March 2017, C&A Foundation launched Fashion for Good in Amsterdam, with C&A as one of its first brand partners. Fashion for Good’s single focus is to transform the apparel sector, making ‘good fashion’ the norm by convening brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and funders to make this happen. The initiative has started well and gained tremendous momentum, with new brands including adidas, Zalando and Target joining during the year.
In 2018, C&A will continue to work with Fashion for Good to help transform the apparel sector by supporting:
The Good Fashion Fund to catalyse access to finance where it is needed.
Although we are proud to have brought the first GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products to market, we know circular fashion is still a long way from being ‘normal’.
One of the most important things we can do to change this is continue sharing what we've learnt about circular fashion with the rest of our industry. For example, true circularity involves looking at how products are designed, developed and manufactured. We know our certified T-shirts have been designed this way, making them better for the environment, workers and their communities.
These products prove that circularity is possible today. We want to encourage others to join us so that attributes like this become part of the new normal. Since the launch of our circular products, Stella McCartney and G-Star have both launched Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM materials, showing that momentum is growing.