Climate Change Reducing our impacts by focusing in the right areas

Climate change is one of the most important areas for C&A to focus on because it threatens the communities we work in, as well as our ability to access raw materials in the future by increasing the frequency of unpredictable or extreme weather events. To be effective, we must focus our efforts on those areas where we can make the most change, most quickly. To identify these opportunities, we routinely assess our impacts through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) across our entire value chain – from cotton farms right through to end of use.


In 2018, we will define science-based climate targets to ensure that we are reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Read more about science-based targets

Approach and methodology

Working with the scientists at Aligned Incentives and building on last year’s analysis, we have evaluated our scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our value chain.

The model uses a hybrid LCA approach that follows the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for corporate accounting and reporting and value chains. This hybrid LCA model combines input-output and process LCA methods, enabling us to focus on the key hotspots in our value chain at a material, regional, and value chain level.

Improving data gathering so we can improve our focus

We continually improve our greenhouse gas data and reporting so that we can identify and implement more sustainable practices.

We have improved our 2017 estimate for the consumer use phase by utilising customer survey data, garment-specific care instructions and garment durability data from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Due to upgrades to our inventory tracking system, we were also able to model unique items and incorporate data from our suppliers of more sustainable viscose to capture the impacts of this fibre more accurately.

Our 2017 estimate uses data from more than 540,000 shipments from our sourcing countries to our stores. We also evaluated emissions across 1,780 unique non-product spend categories to assess the value chain impacts of products and services that are related to our business operations and administration. This, combined with energy and fuel data for each of our stores, distribution centres and offices, has provided us with a comprehensive data set used in the analysis. It has therefore enabled us to set a firm baseline from which we will measure our reductions going forward.

Reducing our impact on the climate

In 2017, we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain by 16% compared to 2016, saving approximately 929,979 metric tons of CO2e. This reduction is strongly influenced by a reduction in sourced materials (inventory weight decreased despite an increase in sold items) and the sourcing of more sustainable materials such as cotton and viscose. Our footprint also decreased as a result of our improved modelling of our consumers’ use habits.

Total greenhouse gas emissions 2017, by scope

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Model Value % of total
Scope 1 19,759 0.39%
Natural gas combustion 18,954 0.38%
Fuel oil combustion 805 0.02%
Scope 2 206,245 4.10%
Purchased electricity 195,507 3.38%
Purchased district heating 8,856 0.18%
Purchased district cooling 1,881 0.04%
Scope 3 4,806,900 95.86%
Purchased goods & services 3,681,329 73.15%
Fuel-& energy-related activities 57,273 1.14%
Upstream transportation & distribution 467,466 9.29%
Waste generated in operations 304 0.01%
Business travel 13,181 0.26%
Use of sold goods 457,657 9.09%
End-of-life treatment of sold products 129,690 2.58%
Total Emissions 5,032,903 100.00%

Total greenhouse gas emissions, year-on-year comparison

0 1,000,000 2,000,000 3,000,000 4,000,000 5,000,000 6,000,000 7,000,000 2016 2017 mt CO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017 5,962,882 5,032,903 16% reduction

Total greenhouse gas emissions 2017 across our life cycle

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Total greenhouse gas emissions across our life cycle, year-on-year comparison

Unit: mtCO~2~e

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Reducing our climate impact through more sustainable materials

Roughly 7% of our greenhouse emissions comes from agriculture, which means the best way to tackle them is by sourcing more sustainable cotton. We are focused on creating a science-based target for all GHG Protocol scopes, and our progress in sustainable cotton is already showing a sizeable contribution.

Greenhouse gas emissions of C&A’s cotton mix, compared to conventional cotton

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017 Global Average for Conventional Cotton C&A Cotton Mix 0 4 5 0, 00 0 22 5 , 00 0 m t C O 2 e 381,381 12% reduction 336,875

In 2017, 67% of the cotton we sourced was more sustainable, meaning that it is grown organically or sourced via the Better Cotton Initiative. We estimate that our sustainable sourcing of cotton in 2017 avoided 44,505 metric tons of CO2e emissions, a reduction of 12% in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional cotton.

Greenhouse gas emissions of C&A’s viscose mix, compared to conventional viscose

0 1 2 0, 00 0 2 0, 00 0 4 0, 00 0 6 0, 00 0 8 0, 00 0 1 0 0, 00 0 m t C O 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017 Global Average for Conventional Viscose C&A Viscose Mix 10 5, 9 2 3 1 9% reduction 8 5 , 79 9

In 2016, roughly 9% of our CO2e emissions from raw material production was from cellulosic fibres – and almost all of that impact was from the production of viscose. In 2017, we implemented a strategy to source a proportion of our viscose from more sustainable production practices. This effort is already contributing to noticeable emissions reductions: we estimate that our sourcing of more sustainable viscose in 2017 avoided 20,124 metric tons of CO2e emissions, a reduction of 19% compared to conventional viscose.

Read more about our commitment to more sustainable viscose

Reducing our climate impact through more efficient production

Material processing, which is dominated by textile production, is the largest source of emissions in our supply chain, representing about 40% of total emissions. We work with several key partners to reduce carbon along our value chain. We have been a member of the Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT) since the initiative began in 2013. PaCT’s focus is on cleaning up the wet processing industry in Bangladesh, which includes making suppliers more energy efficient. Through the partnership, C&A has saved nearly 40,000 MWh of energy and nearly 600,000 m3 of water per year. Because we source more from Bangladesh than any other country (32% in 2017), our efforts are driving measurable reductions in our scope 3 emissions.

Reducing our climate impact in our retail operations

Our retail operations, excluding garments and transportation, account for around 12% of our total greenhouse gas emissions – of which 6% is energy consumption. We have set a 2020 target to reduce these emissions by 20% compared to 2012. All our retail markets have developed roadmaps to address energy efficiency and renewable energy purchased in our new and existing stores, offices and distribution centres.

We have updated our methodology to align with best practice by using Gross Leasable Area (GLA) as a measure of our floor space instead of Total Usable Sales Area (TUSA). GLA is a more representative measure of C&A’s building space and will allow us to be consistent in our calculations across different types of building.

In order to track our carbon footprint accurately, we have recalculated our energy efficiency and greenhouse gas intensity using GLA for every year since our baseline year (2012). Using the new methodology, in 2017 we increased our retail energy and carbon efficiency by 19% and 14% respectively compared to 2012. We also purchased 20% of our energy from renewable sources.

Absolute energy consumption and energy efficiency of stores, offices and distribution centres

GLA: Gross Leasable Area

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Absolute CO2 emissions and carbon efficiency of stores, offices and distribution centres

GLA: Gross Leasable Area

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Consumer use 

The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 12% of our total carbon footprint.

Due to a lack of data, our past estimates of consumer use impacts have been based on large assumptions with high levels of uncertainty. In 2017, we took a closer look at our customers’ habits to improve our estimate and understand the levers with which C&A – and other brands – can reduce consumer use impacts. Using primary data collected from a customer survey, we identified previous assumptions that overestimated impacts in this life cycle stage and we were pleased to learn that a sizeable portion of our customers are currently consuming fashion more sustainably. Specifically, we learned 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.

In 2017, we ran a sensitivity analysis to measure the impact of the average cleaning cycle on the carbon footprint of our clothing. We found that clothes washing represents roughly 55% of total greenhouse gas impact, and drying accounts for the remaining 45%. Washing at 40°C is the dominant driver (52%) of the greenhouse gas impacts of washing clothes. This was not surprising, as many washing machines have 40°C as their default setting.

These results show the power of normalising sustainable behaviours. Using our data, we estimate that the total greenhouse gas impact of our clothing could be reduced by 45% if line-drying were the norm for the 15-40% of customers who machine-dry their clothing. And if the default 40°C wash became a 30°C wash, we would see additional greenhouse gas savings of approximately 21%. Together, these simple changes could cut the carbon footprint of our clothing by one-third, or over 300 megatons.

Customer survey results: drying method by region and garment type

Customer survey results: wears-per-wash profiles by region and garment type

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Where next?

In 2018 and beyond, we will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the areas with the largest impacts. Sourcing more sustainable cotton and viscose will continue to be our main focus. Working with PaCT and rapidly scaling our Sustainable Chemicals Management programme will further reduce our impacts on climate change.