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.
To address the challenges of the linear fashion model, C&A has developed a strategy with three major elements:
For a closer look at our circular fashion strategy, view this video.
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 large 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.
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 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 ever-expanding in-store take-back programme that allows customers to recycle clothing that has reached its end of use.
Continue our partnership with Fashion for Good, focused on incubating and accelerating circular technologies in the apparel industry.
Drive industry alignment through Make Fashion Circular initiative from Ellen MacArthur foundation.
Launch another major innovation and pioneering achievement in our Cradle to Cradle-CertifiedTM jeans.
Expand our in-store take-back programme in additional geographies and online in Germany.
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, as we expanded the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM collection from Ladies’ to include Men’s, Kids’, and Teens’ items in some of our markets, and offered new innovations such as stripes, embroideries, and prints to add richness to our offerings.
In 2018, we developed and offered the world’s first Gold Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM Jeans in several Men’s and Ladies’ styles. Notably, in collaboration with Fashion for Good, we also made publicly available a set of resources for other apparel companies to use in developing their own Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM products. These mark important steps on our own journey — as well as that of the apparel industry — towards circular fashion.
In total, we have brought almost 4 million pieces of Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM apparel to market so far.
Following its successful launch in the Netherlands, we rolled out our in-store take-back programme to additional retail markets and now have take-back programmes in nine countries – with a view to further expanding the programme by 2020.
Accelerating change through Fashion for Good
In March 2017, Fashion for Good – founded by C&A Foundation – was launched in Amsterdam, with C&A as one of its first brand partners. In 2018, we continued our work with Fashion for Good to help transform the apparel sector by supporting:
As a multi-stakeholder organisation, 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. Fashion for Good serves as an innovation platform that provides promising start-up innovators with access to funding and scaling support for their innovations. It also acts as a convener for change by bringing together a circular apparel community, building a good fashion movement, and creating freely available resources. The initiative has gained tremendous momentum, with over 75 innovators and more than 15 pilots facilitated so far.
C&A Foundation, Fashion for Good, MBDC, McDonough Innovation, Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute, Circular Economy 100, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator, Lafayette Plug and Play Accelerator, I:CO, Centro Social Carisma, EIG, Retalhar, Make Fashion Circular
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 and jeans 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, other brands and retailers, as well as manufacturers, have launched Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM materials, showing that momentum is growing.