Listening to our customers Understanding our customers better

Our annual sustainability customer insights survey, in partnership with GlobeScan, helps us listen to and act on the issues that matter most to our customers. The insights we gain from the survey guide how we speak to our customers about sustainability in our products and campaigns – ultimately leading to a better sustainability strategy that not only reduces impact and risk, but is also tailored to their concerns. 

2017 was the third year we ran the survey, asking over 6,000 customers in C&A’s six key markets – Brazil, China, France, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands – about their priorities and expectations for sustainability.1 Here are selected insights from the 2017 results.


Our sustainability reputation

Our goal is for C&A to be recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in all our regions. In 2017, we were recognised as the most sustainable retail fashion brand in Brazil and in the Netherlands for the third year running. We maintained our strong position in Germany while our position in Mexico remains stable. However, perceptions of leadership in China and in France were not as strong as in 2016.

When survey respondents were prompted to consider C&A’s performance in detail, they scored us favourably across a range of sustainability issues. 

  • “C&A manufactures T-shirts that can be recycled.” (C&A customer, Brazil)
  • “They recycle old clothes and also ensure they do not use any child labour.” (C&A customer, the Netherlands)
  • “Because C&A has proven to be a company that follows a sustainable model, respects the environment, and contributes to society by taking care of workers and selling quality products.” (C&A customer, Mexico)
  • “Clothes are made with organic cotton.” (C&A customer, France)
  • “C&A do not use animal skin as leather for clothes, and they actively promote environmental issues.” (C&A customer, China)

Their positive responses when prompted show that we have a significant opportunity to improve the spontaneous recognition of our work. However, ‘communicating more on sustainability’ remains among the top three requests from customers, in order to build trust. This means we need to build on the campaigns we’ve worked on in 2017 and better integrate sustainability into our overall brand communications. The 2017 survey also showed us that one of the main drivers of our sustainability reputation in Europe is organic cotton – our area of longstanding leadership.

What customers care about

Our survey asked customers about the sustainability issues they care about and expect us to be addressing. Although the issues raised varied across regions, some core priorities were common to customers across the world.

Globally, the top five issues remained relatively similar compared to 2016. The only noticeable change is that water is now among the most important issues for C&A to address:

  • Sourcing materials responsibly
  • Treating workers fairly
  • Openness and honesty
  • Water pollution
  • Fair trade

The issues that drive C&A’s sustainability reputation

Focus areas where C&A performs less well (below average performance), but which are important in driving sustainability reputation Manage attributes that may present future risk which are less important now but where C&A's performance lower (below average) High leverage attributes on which C&A is perceived to perform well (above average performance) and which are important in driving sustainability reputation Maintain less important attributes on which C&A already meets Category Buyer expectations and performs well (above average performance) Environmentally responsible + socially responsible Attribute types Environmental Product Social Economy and transparency IMPORTANCE PERCEIVED PERFORMANCE OF C&A FOCUS HIGH LEVERAGE MANAGE MAINTAIN Source material responsibly Treats workers fairly Fair trade Employees Communities Charity No Child labour Respects diversity Locally sourced Jobs Economy Avoids water Avoids water Minimise pollution Minimise climate change Minimal chemicals Organic Recycled materials No child labour Customer recycling No animals skins High quality Durable Easy to wash Comfort Fashionable Afforable

Our 2017 performance

A core part of our sustainability commitment is to help our customers look good, feel good and do good. The survey gives us strong insights into how we can bring our customers along with us on our sustainability journey. In 2017, our customers told us what we have been doing right, and what we need to focus on in the future.

Priority issue

How we responded to customers’ 2016 feedback

What customers told us in 2017

Responsible sourcing and product sustainability

A strong priority for customers in 2016 was knowing more about product sourcing. In response, we launched a campaign supporting the launch of Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirts in Brazil, Mexico and Europe. We also developed our global consumer-facing sustainability communications campaign #WearTheChange. This campaign launched in February 2018 and covers all our customer-facing sustainable activity.

In 2016, C&A was perceived to have improved its responsible sourcing performance in China and Brazil, though this was also a general trend observed for competitors.

Remained a clear priority for customers in 2017.

Customers told us they see our strong leadership in organic cotton. In Europe, customers increasingly wanted C&A to communicate where their products come from.

Customers wanted C&A to communicate more on sustainability and transparency in general.

Read more about sustainable products



Fair and ethical workplaces and treating employees well

Customers told us they want to know more about the origins of their products – a core driver of C&A’s reputation in all our markets.

We publish a list of our tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers’ factories annually.

See our suppliers' factory disclosure map

Remained a priority for customers across the world in 2017.

In our European markets, C&A’s leadership remained strong while perception of our working conditions improved in China and Brazil. However, this was in line with a general increase in perceived working conditions across our competitors, and so reflects a general trend.

Read more about safe and fair labour

Charity work that makes a difference in local communities


This was a high priority for customers in 2016.

We raised over €800,000 through customer marketing campaigns in Europe and Mexico to support schools in Mérida, Mexico, to build child-friendly spaces in case of natural disasters, and to support refugees in Europe.

In Brazil, we launched a head office volunteering programme to support five NGOs that help fashion entrepreneurs, women and refugees with 146 employees participating.

A reduced priority for customers in 2017 compared to 2016.

However, charitable partnerships remain a priority for C&A customers and we are committed to our work in this area.

Read more about our charitable partnerships

Engaged employees who enable sustainable living

Engaging employees remained a priority for customers in 2016. We responded by extending our employee engagement survey to employees in C&A Mexico, with scores increasing in Mexico and Brazil.

We also offered increased sustainability training to our product management, store management, buying and marketing departments. In line with our Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM product launch in 2017, we delivered Cradle-to-Cradle training in both of our European head offices.

Remained a priority for customers in 2017.

How C&A treats employees remained a strong driver of C&A’s positive reputation on sustainability in 2017 with customers in Netherlands and Germany perceiving C&A to be performing well in this area. Perceived performance on social responsibility continued to increase in China, Mexico and Brazil in 2017.

Read more about employee engagement

Increasing our sustainability communications to customers

In 2016, we found that while C&A was not named as the leader in sustainable fashion retail in all regions, many more customers believed that our performance is good when questioned more closely. Based on this insight, one of our priorities for 2017 was to align our sustainability communications with brand communications.

In line with this priority, we developed the #WearTheChange campaign, our first global, multi-channel sustainability communications campaign during 2017. The aim of this campaign is to align our sustainability communications with our brand communications, and speak with a single voice to customers in all regions.

Read more about #WearTheChange

Leveraging our reputation for openness and honesty

Since 2015, customers’ perception of C&A as open and honest has been a core driver of our reputation on sustainability. Our 2017 customer survey showed that C&A is considered to be open and honest in most markets – with the exception of France. In 2018, we will work to improve our perception of openness and honesty amongst French customers by communicating more on sustainability and our supply chain.

According to GlobeScan, our survey partner, being seen as open and honest is more often a challenge for companies than a strength. We will build on our positive reputation for openness and honesty in 2018 to help our customers engage with our sustainability efforts more widely. As a family company that has been trusted by generations of customers for 177 years, we are determined to create a deeper and more direct connection with customers on our sustainability efforts.

Sourcing materials sustainably and responsibly

Our 2017 survey showed that customers increasingly understand the importance of recycled materials and sourcing materials responsibly. We are responding to this expectation by communicating our efforts in this area through the #WearTheChange campaign in 2018 and beyond.

Where next?

We will continue communicating on the sustainability topics that are relevant for our customers and take our product storytelling to the next level through #WearTheChange. In order to truly break through and engage our customers, we are activating this campaign across multiple channels.

1 Customer research was conducted online in November-December 2017. Sample sizes: Brazil = 1,002, China = 1,000, France = 1,000, Germany = 1,000, Mexico = 1,003, Netherlands = 1,001.