Global frameworks Global frameworks provide a compass on sustainability

We know that our challenges aren’t unique: increasingly governments, consumers and businesses recognise that business must create positive change for society. We’ve aligned our strategy with global frameworks that are relevant to our business and industry and help guide our approach.

We’re a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a set of universal principles addressing human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption for business.

C&A has applied the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Standards for this report. Our assessment of materiality has been used to determine the indicators that we have elaborated on in this report. 

We support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a framework for advancing the sustainability agenda. In 2016, we further developed our approach to integrating the SDGs into our operations, innovations, and partnerships. 

To navigate our report using these three frameworks, see our GRI, UNGC and SDG Index.

Six global goals that guide our strategy and reporting framework

The work we do to create fashion with a positive impact contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals in many ways. The following six goals are particularly relevant to our business, our impacts and the contribution we can make. Our main partner, C&A Foundation, works across the entire apparel value chain to bring about systemic change in the apparel sector. Together, we are generating long-term solutions. Over the coming years, we will continue to develop and enhance our approach to these goals.

C&A’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

C&A and C&A Foundation 1 No Poverty 2 Zero Hunger 3 Good Health and Well-Being 4 Quality Education 7 Afforable and Clean Energy 9 Industry Innovation and infrastructure 10 Inequalities 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities 14 Life below water 15 Life on land 16 Peace, Justice and strong Institutions 12 Responsible consumption and production 13 Climate action 5 Gender equality 6 Clean water and sanitation 8 Decent work and economic growth 17 Partnerships for the goals 5 Gender equality 6 Clean water and sanitation 8 Decent work and economic growth 12 Responsible consumption and production 13 Climate action 17 Partnerships for the goals

SDG #5 – Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 5 states that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but the basis for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. When women are educated, healthy and economically empowered, families and communities thrive.

Women are the driving force behind our industry. The majority of our customers and employees are women, as are most of the people who make our clothes. We are working to empower women and achieve gender equality across our supply chain, from the farming of raw materials through to the manufacture and sale of our clothes. 

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • We want to create products everyone can enjoy, regardless of their gender. We recognise the need to reflect this in the products we design for both men and women, and the way in which we market them. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • We're increasing transparency across our supply chain, publicly disclosing our tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers' factories every year. Nearly 55% of the workers in our supply chain, who are predominantly women, work in top-performing, A/B-rated factories that adhere to our high standards on working hours, minimum wages, discrimination, violence or abuse and undisclosed production. Read more
  • We're collaborating with other organisations, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, GoodWeave and C&A Foundation, to protect the most vulnerable and abolish Sumangali, a form of bonded labour in India. Read more

Sustainable lives

  • C&A signed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles in March 2018, committing us to creating action plans on gender parity and the empowerment of women for all retail markets, starting in 2017. Read more
  • Our global Inspiring Women campaign engaged over 80% of our employees in countries including Italy, Switzerland and China in raising awareness of gender equality. It raised €574,000 for charities supporting women’s safety, leadership and voice. Read more
  • We contribute to strengthening communities with a focus on mothers and children, through partnership with Save the Children and C&A Foundation. Read more


SDG #6 – Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all

Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world's population and is projected to rise. Goal 6 looks at how we provide access to clean water and basic sanitation to billions of people who currently live without it. 2017 is the third year we have undertaken a detailed scientific assessment of our entire life cycle to understand where our impacts lie and where we can make the greatest contribution.

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • Our cornerstone goal to source 100% more sustainable cotton underpins our approach to water, as more sustainable cotton – and organic cotton in particular – uses considerably less water than conventional cotton. Read more.
  • We are a member of CottonConnect, the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). All three are industry-wide initiatives that support cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices including using less water. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • We continued to realise significant water reductions during 2017, reducing our total water footprint by 14% compared to 2016. These savings resulted from a 29% reduction in blue water consumption, a 15% reduction in green water consumption and a 13% in grey water consumption. Read more
  • As part of our commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, we closely monitor the quality of wastewater from our suppliers' factories and report publicly on the results. In 2017, we conducted wastewater testing at 234 facilities in 14 countries. Read more

SDG #8 - Decent work and economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 8 calls for more jobs that not only provide decent pay but stimulate the economy and provide equal opportunities for men and women, while protecting the environment. The apparel industry has an important role to play in providing quality jobs that stimulate development.

We work with our suppliers' production units to ensure the quality of jobs in our sector – everywhere we operate and source from – uphold labour rights and the safe and fair working conditions that are central to decent work. We also create jobs in the communities where we have C&A stores and offices. 

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable supply

  • We believe safe and fair working conditions should be the norm for all garment workers. We have identified the top four labour issues facing our suppliers and have created long-term strategies for each challenge: working hours and compensation, building and fire safety, freedom of association and undisclosed production. Read more
  • We are actively involved in ACT, a global initiative on Action, Collaboration, Transformation to unite stakeholders in improving wages through collective bargaining in key production countries, world-class manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices to lift the wage floor. Read more
  • Working with our suppliers, we want to help build capacity and ownership of the issues they face. Our bespoke Supplier Ownership Programme cover 24 key C&A suppliers with responsibility for over 60,000 workers. Read more
  • In many places, workers may not be used to being able to influence decision-making. The right to freedom of association or the acknowledgement of workers’ rights can be unknown. We are changing that by supporting fair contracts and social dialogue. Read more

Sustainable lives

  • We listen to our employees to understand and act on the issues that matter to them. In our global engagement survey, we ask employees to give us their thoughts on C&A's values, strategy, our approach to sustainability, and how we're doing as an employer. Read more

SDG #12 – Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 12 asks us to think twice about the things we use, the waste we create and how that impacts our planet – it's about doing more (and better) with less.

This principle is at the heart of our global sustainability strategy, from the work we do on clean environment in our supply chain to our commitment to a new normal where we sell only circular fashion products, designed with their next use in mind. Our vision is one of a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing.

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • In 2017, C&A launched the first GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirt – a recyclable garment made of 100% organic cotton, with safe materials and chemicals and are produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Since then, C&A has launched additional Cradle-to-Cradle Certified TM products in both Men and Ladies. Read more
  • For the fifth year, we have been named the world's largest buyer of organic cotton, and our commitment to 100% more sustainable cotton – including organic and Better Cotton – will help to ensure we use significantly fewer natural resources, while emitting less CO2, when compared with conventional cotton. Read more
  • In Europe and China, we have taken the bold step of committing to source 100% of our man-made cellulosic fibres from suppliers who have practices in place to prevent ancient or endangered forest products entering their supply chain. Read more
  • We continue to develop other innovative clothing collections including sustainable denim made with organic cotton and recycled PET made from plastic bottles. Read more
  • We’re supporting customers to give their clothes a second life through our in-store take-back programme. Following its successful launch in the Netherlands, we rolled out take-back in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and piloted a program in Brazil. Read more

Sustainable supply

  • Our Sustainable Chemicals Management strategy is guiding our work to eliminate hazardous chemicals from our supply chain by 2020. Our facilities were given their first performance score in 2017. Read more

SDG #13 – Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 13 is about finding solutions to climate change. It will take actions from all of us to create a significant impact. We're working to reduce our carbon emissions across our value chain.

In 2017, we completed our third detailed, hybrid Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), to better understand where our impacts lie and where we can make the greatest contribution. Thanks to improvements in modelling, we have been able to set a new and more accurate baseline to measure our reductions going forward. 

We have incorporated this SDG into our overall strategy in the following ways:

Sustainable products

  • We actively source organic and Better Cotton to meet our goal of 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020. Cotton makes up 57% of the materials we use, so it's where we can have the biggest impact. We're over two-thirds of the way to meeting our goal: 67% of the cotton we source is more sustainable, and with that come many benefits, both social and environmental. Read more
  • We have reduced our total carbon footprint by 15% in 2017 compared to 2016. This reduction was influenced strongly by reductions in sourced materials and the sourcing of more sustainable materials. Read more
  • Our membership of the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Better Cotton Initiative allows us to support more cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices that use fewer pesticides, look after the health of the soil and conserve natural habitats and biodiversity. Read more


Sustainable supply

  • Our cornerstone commitment to source 100% more sustainable cotton underpins our approach to combating climate change. We estimate that our sustainable cotton mix in 2017 contributes 12% less CO2 than the equivalent amount of conventional cotton. Read more
  • Textile production is a significant source of COemissions in our supply chain. We are a member of the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT), which focuses on cleaning up the wet processing industry in Bangladesh. In 2017, C&A saved nearly 40,000 MWh of energy through the partnership. Read more
  • The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 12% of our total carbon footprint. In 2017, we investigated our customers’ habits to dig deeper into this number, and fund that a high proportion (60-85%) of our customers line-dry their clothes, and a majority wear articles such as trousers, shirts and blouses multiple times before washes. Read more

SDG #17 – Partnership for the goals

Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalise partnerships for sustainable development

This goal recognises that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between government, the private sector and civil society.

At C&A, collaboration and partnerships are central to our approach. We strongly believe we need convergence around common standards, and between initiatives and organisations, to drive coherence throughout the value chain and work towards achieving the global goals. We participate in multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources in support of the SDGs.

See a full list of our partnerships here