When it comes to managing sustainable chemicals, we apply the ‘clean factory’ approach, encouraging the elimination of hazardous chemicals across production for all brands, not just C&A’s production. Since we first began our Sustainable Chemicals Management (SCM) programme, it has expanded to include hundreds of production units in our supply chain, from fabric mills to printers. Now we are working with them to achieve lasting positive impacts in identifying and adopting safer chemicals, improving on-site chemical management systems, and eliminating hazardous chemicals from wastewater. Among other activities, this work includes communicating our SCM Minimum Performance Standard and Rating System to our supply chain and regularly enhancing the standard, such as to add further Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) wastewater guidelines and wastewater legal requirements.
Continually driving significant water and carbon reductions
The apparel industry faces environmental challenges at every stage of a garment’s life, from farms, to fabric and garment production, through to transportation and in our stores. Our cornerstone commitment to sourcing more sustainable cotton results in significant carbon and water savings when compared to conventional cotton. Considering that 71% of our cotton is now more sustainable, our role in driving less impact is significant on the upstream supply chain.
We believe that our focus areas should be based on scientifically sound data and analysis. In 2018, we completed our fourth C&A-specific, cradle-to-grave hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) to better understand our carbon and water footprints and our impacts on climate change and water risk. We’re also working hard to build and test robust assessment tools for chemicals and environmental management that drive consistent change toward zero discharge of hazardous chemicals and reduced environmental impacts across the industry. Finally, we continue to strengthen our efforts by setting new global goals to reduce water use in the production of raw materials, striving to cut waste and water use in our own operations, and providing in-store recycling solutions for our customers.
Launched a hazard-based chemical assessment project across key fabric mills and laundries and conducted a project to understand the provenance of chemicals.
Continued to implement the Sustainable Chemicals Management (SCM) Programme at all key tier-1, tier-2, and tier-3 suppliers, creating tangible progress towards our ZDHC commitment.
Improved our hybrid LCA methodology to better understand our carbon and water footprints and the impact of our actions in these areas.
Began the development of science-based climate targets.
Advancing Sustainable Chemicals Management
We began with 50 fabric mills in our SCM programme back in 2016, and now have more than 300 production units covered globally under the SCM programme. This includes all major fabric mills, laundries, printers, and vertical set-ups. Over the coming years, we will shift our focus from expanding coverage to driving impact creation jointly with our industry partners in three key areas:
In 2017, we communicated our SCM Minimum Performance Standard and Rating System globally with our supply chain to ensure our expectations of chemical management performance are clearly understood. That same year, we also identified wastewater discharge quality for conventional parameters as an on-going concern for our supply chain. In 2018, to increase the emphasis and priority of this issue, C&A further enhanced the Minimum Performance Standard by adding the requirement to meet the Foundation Level set in the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines.Also during the year, we upgraded the supplier requirement to meet legal wastewater discharge requirements to a zero tolerance item in the SSC Audit.
The Standard, and its associated performance requirements, is updated annually as we work towards ZDHC.
Chemical audits and Higg 3.0 pilot
We have been actively supporting the convergence of the ZDHC Chemical Management Audit and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) Higg Index tool to create the Higg Index 3.0 Facility Environment Module (FEM). This is in line with our commitment to utilise industry tools and standards to ensure we reduce cost and complexity across our supply chain.
Driving the adoption of safer chemistry
The starting point for safer chemistry is transparency. In 2018, C&A rolled out tools to increase the transparency of the chemicals used in our supply chain, allowing us to determine which chemical products are being used, who is supplying them, and in what quantities. Known as CleanChain, this tool provides information that promises to drive the adoption of safer chemistry.
Collaboration with others in the industry is central to our shared progress. To this end, we have been working with other brands and stakeholders on a chemical screening project that uses a hazard-based approach to identify and substitute best-in-class or better alternatives. Additionally, we continue collaborating on the development of the ZDHC Gateway, a platform funded by C&A Foundation, which acts as a global database of green chemistry and wastewater testing results.
Carbon and water footprints
We completed our fourth hybrid LCA in 2018, gathering data on our carbon and water footprints from cradle to grave. We reduced our global carbon footprint by 14% compared to 2016, driven by a reduction in the materials we used (despite selling more items in 2018) and by the sourcing of more sustainable materials.
Our 2018 water footprint increased by 18% compared to 2017. This includes a 13% increase in blue water consumption, a 16% increase in green water consumption, and a 19% increase in grey water consumption. This is due to a variety of factors, most notably a 12% increase in raw material use. However, we have achieved an absolute reduction of 8% in our blue water consumption in raw material extraction compared with 2016, or roughly 28 million cubic metres (m3) of water.
To make further reductions, in 2017 we committed to new global 2025 goals to reduce water in the production of our raw materials by 30% (compared to 2016), and to further reduce the water we use in stores, distribution centres, and offices by 10% (compared to 2012). In 2018, we made progress towards these commitments. For instance, we saved 1 billion cubic meters (m3) of water – the equivalent of 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — through more sustainable agriculture and apparel production in our supply chain. However, as of this report publication, we are still analysing the data for C&A Europe, our largest region. Results will be updated once progress has been analysed.
Towards zero waste
In 2017, C&A committed to sending zero waste to landfill from C&A stores, distribution centres, and offices by 2025. With products such as our gold level Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM collection developed in 2017 and expanded in 2018, we’re also one step closer to our goal of circular fashion. We recognise that zero waste is an ambitious and difficult aspiration. At the same time, we are committed to building the foundation for minimising waste production — and helping our customers do the same — so that we can eventually meet our goal.
Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, C&A Foundation, World Resources Institute, Aligned Incentives, IPE, Greenpeace, China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC), Fashion for Good, Solidaridad, Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, Dutch Covenant for Sustainable Apparel and Textile