Dear C&A stakeholders,
Making sustainable fashion the new normal is difficult but rewarding work. In 2018, we have experienced significant shifts in the fashion industry, where normalising sustainable and circular fashion will be essential to brand longevity and customer engagement.
At the same time, we are well aware that global fashion faces a changing – and challenging – economic environment marked by shifting consumer trends, a deficit in trust, and other external forces. The continued meteoric growth of e-commerce, recent uncertainties in global trade, and growing consumer interest in circular business models, are just a few of the trends promising even greater changes ahead that will challenge the fashion industry.
We believe that C&A’s enduring focus on sustainability in our operations, in our value chain, and in our stores has been fostered by the vision and values we have possessed for over 178 years of heritage. Sustainability is a long-term goal for us, measured in generations. And just as the business challenges facing our industry require that we be creative and nimble in our strategies, so does our vision to make sustainable fashion the new normal. This vision motivates and inspires us. It gives us a framework for decisionmaking. And it drives us, year after year, toward greater innovation in the ways we source, make, and sell our products. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far and how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Global Compact has led us:
Moving circular fashion forward and driving innovation, supporting SDG 12 and SDG 17 – We have now brought to market almost 4 million pieces of our revolutionary Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM apparel – including the world’s first gold Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM jeans, offered in 2018. We are also sharing our learnings with the industry through open-source roadmaps prepared with Fashion for Good so others have resources to embrace the circular approach. We have actively sought out and tested circular fibres, business models, and innovations with the Fashion for Good start-ups, and are pleased with the promise of pre-competitive collaboration on sustainability challenges with other brand partners.
Doing our part to minimise climate change, supporting SDG 13 – Climate change continues to be one of the major challenges of our time and we have been working hard on our Science-Based Targets in line with the Paris Agreement. This year alone, by supporting organic and sustainable agriculture, we have been able to avoid 116,000 tons of CO2 emissions (mtCO2e), equivalent to the yearly CO2 emissions of over 70,000 passenger cars. In 2019, we will finalise our targets and communicate them publicly.
Providing even more transparency supporting SDG 8 and SDG 12 – We continue pushing ourselves and our supply chain towards radical transparency. This includes disclosing our entire greenhouse gas inventory and water footprint—as one of the few fashion brands to do so. In 2018, we also launched an innovative tool to trace the chemicals used in our supply chain and advance safer chemistry, and we began exploring blockchain technology for traceability of organic cotton. We also continue to publish our full, updated list of suppliers, and of course share our journey with you through this report.
Leading in organic cotton, supporting SDG 6, SDG 12, and SDG 13 – Cotton makes up 57% of the raw materials we buy, and in 2018 for the sixth time we were the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton, with 38% of our cotton sourced as certified organic. We know this isn’t the whole story. We also have to design and purchase more sustainable viscose, polyester, and other fibres, including recycled options. In 2018, C&A Europe sold more than 300,000 items containing recycled polyester and 95,000 pieces containing recycled cotton, and we aim to increase this trend. In addition, we brought to market over 1.3 million products containing down, 100% of them certified to the Responsible Down Standard. Finally, the use of mohair from the angora goat has been banned, and beginning with the Spring/Summer season 2019, no product with mohair will be sold.
Enabling our customers to act more sustainably, supporting SDG 12 – The most important focus of our business is the 3.5 million visitors we serve every day in our stores around the world, who play an important role in making sustainable fashion mainstream. Along with our far-reaching #WearTheChange campaign, now in all C&A retail markets, we have expanded our in-store take-back programme to new geographies. Customers in eight countries can now take their unwanted clothes to C&A stores, and customers in a ninth country can participate in our online take-back programme.
Engaging our employees in transforming the industry we all share, supporting SDG 5, SDG 8, and SDG 17 – 2018 saw the launch of our Inspiring World campaign, in which nearly 33,000 employees shared their vision of a better world. With C&A Foundation, the programme provided over €1 million to charities chosen by employees and benefitting more than 250,000 people.
Collaborating at scale, supporting SDG 8 and SDG 17 – Industry-wide collaborations are key to our sustainability progress and to bringing about the wide-scale change needed to revolutionise the industry. Among many other important alliances, in 2018, we continued our close involvement with ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation), a groundbreaking agreement among global brands, retailers, and trade unions to transform the garment, textile, and footwear industry. With other ACT brands, we are striving to ensure living wages for garment workers in key sourcing countries by establishing industry-wide, national collective bargaining agreements as well as responsible purchasing evaluation tools and practices for the industry. Lastly, we will continue to support and provide our technical expertise to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop circular approaches for the apparel industry. And of course, we partner with C&A Foundation to support systemic change in social and environmental practices across the industry.
Over the coming months, we will continue to examine the progress we have made toward our 2020 goals since we established them almost 5 years ago. We’ll take a close look at the lessons we’ve learned along the way as we define our ambitions and our role in the future of sustainable fashion. Later in 2020, we expect to announce our new global sustainability strategy.
We have come a long way since 2015, when we developed our first global sustainability strategy. We are encouraged by our progress, yet acknowledge that we have much more to do. We will continue to embed sustainability deeper within the business, build capacity for sustainable practices in our supply chain, and increase our sustainability leadership in our retail markets. Ultimately, we are confident that sustainable fashion will become mainstream, and in this report, we transparently share our progress toward that aim – both the successes and the challenges. We are encouraged in how we have progressed and recognise that we must maintain our leadership and influence to maintain momentum and ambition. Collaboratively, and with a learning mind-set, we believe that we can make sustainable fashion the new normal.
Edward K. Brenninkmeijer
Chairman, Global Sustainability Committee, C&A AG,
Chairman, C&A Foundation Board
Chief Sustainability Officer, C&A Global