When it comes to sourcing more sustainable cotton, we are acting for our customers to normalise better practices across the cotton industry and show that 100% more sustainable cotton is possible. And we're making good progress. Our 2020 goal is for 100% of the cotton we use to be more sustainable. In 2016, 53% of the cotton we sold met this standard.
Certified organic cotton is the most sustainable option and C&A was named the world’s leading buyer in 2016 where 33% of the cotton we sold was organic. When it goes into our collections we never blend organic cotton with non-organic cotton, and we make sure the organic cotton we use is certified to third-party standards (Organic Content Standard (OSC) or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)).
In 2015 we switched from the bespoke more sustainable cotton programme, REEL (led by CottonConnect) and migrated over to the leading industry-wide Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the environment and the people who produce it. By taking a holistic approach, Better Cotton is designed to increase the adoption of better farming practices and transform the industry. Better Cotton farmers are trained and supported to: use water efficiently, care for the health of soil and natural habitats, reduce the use of harmful chemicals and promote decent work. BCI’s goal is that a third of all cotton grown globally, will be grown as Better Cotton by 2020.
Cotton is used by nearly everyone, every day, and supports 250 million people’s livelihoods [SOURCE: BCI]. It’s the material we use most. Cotton is in 56% of our clothing, so it’s where we can have the biggest impact.
Yet, only 1% of the world’s cotton is organic. Organic cotton is better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the future of the industry. The Better Cotton Initiative exists to make cotton that is grown in a socially and environmentally responsible way more widely available.
In comparison, conventional cotton farming and production processes have a much bigger impact:
Work towards our 2020 goal for 100% of our cotton to be more sustainable.
Implement our redefined cotton strategy and accelerate Better Cotton uptake.
Progress towards our 2020 goal
Our use of more sustainable cotton has improved, with 53% used across the business in 2016, up from 40% last year. With our 2020 goal in mind, we have ramped up our efforts to increase the momentum needed to meet it. In 2017, we will focus on closing the gap to 100% by engaging with our whole cotton supply chain, including those who may be harder to reach but are no less important when it comes to achieving our target and creating change across the sector.
One of the largest purchasers of sustainable cotton
C&A was named the largest buyer of organic cotton in the world for the fourth time [SOURCE: Textile Exchange's Organic Cotton Market Report 2016]. We were also ranked 2nd in a new sustainable cotton report commissioned by WWF, Solidaridad and Pesticide Action Network UK [SOURCE: Sustainable Cotton Ranking Report, 2017]. The research covers 37 fashion brands to assess their performance on sustainable cotton. After IKEA, C&A shares second place with H&M.
Transition to the Better Cotton Initiative
2016 has marked a fast and comprehensive transition to the Better Cotton Initiative. In just over a year, more than 20% of the volume of our cotton was sourced as Better Cotton and we were identified as the sixth largest buyer of Better Cotton globally.
Membership of the BCI Growth and Innovation Fund
As well as driving demand for Better Cotton through procurement, we also want to be a part of its future. We are part of the BCI Growth and Innovation Fund, which seeks to train over five million farmers to join the Better Cotton Initiative by 2020. This will support increasing supply and speed up implementation.
Tackling climate change
Organic cotton reduces the global warming potential of cotton production by 46% [SOURCE: Textile Exchange: The Life Cycle Assessment of Organic Cotton Fiber - A Global Average Summary Of Findings, 2014] and is therefore a key component in our climate change strategy.
Developing a guide to reducing the water footprint of cotton cultivation in India
In 2015, we worked with C&A Foundation and the Water Footprint Network (WFN), with support from CottonConnect, to better understand the water footprint and other impacts of organic, REEL and conventional cotton. The study looked at differences in agricultural practices and technologies and their relative impacts on water use and water pollution. In 2016, WFN helped us develop a guide to reducing the water footprint of cotton cultivation in India to help embed better water management practices in cotton farming across the country.
The guide has been developed in conjunction with further training materials to engage farmers on how-to reduce the water use in cotton farming, also available here
Our journey to more sustainable cotton started more than 10 years ago. No longer simply a sustainability initiative, it’s a cross-functional effort, embedded in our day-to-day activities. Driven by targets, owned by the business and reported on at the highest level, it is the cornerstone goal for C&A. Our efforts reach beyond our operations: we seek to improve cotton agriculture, the lives of farmers and the environment. We are doing this by increasing global demand for organic cotton and Better Cotton, as well as building capacity from the ground up – from the grower to the garment maker – across our supplier network.
As with everything we do on sustainability, we believe in creating more sustainable cotton products for our customers, without passing on the additional cost or difficult choices to them.