Our Strategy Mainstreaming sustainability to become the new normal

At C&A, we want to bring sustainability to the mainstream. We want our customers to trust us to do the right thing, so they can buy our products confident that they were made transparently and with respect for people and the environment.

In 2015, we developed our first global sustainability strategy towards 2020, with an aim of embedding sustainability across our business and increasing our sustainability leadership in retail markets. Along with creating this global alignment throughout C&A on our top-level aspirational goals, we also provided flexibility in how the goals are achieved in our retail markets, to meet local needs and to drive innovation.

Measurable, aspirational global goals in three pillars

To achieve our making sustainable fashion the new normal, our sustainability work focuses on the most relevant areas for our business and where we can have the biggest impact – our products, our supply chain, and people’s lives. For a closer look at our strategy for fashion with a positive impact, view this video.

2020 global sustainability framework 

Sustainable Products

We don’t want our customers to have to choose between what’s sustainable and what’s not. To achieve this, we are making sustainability an integral part of how we design and source our clothing. We focus on sustainable materials – especially cotton, one of our largest volume raw materials – and ensure that our clothing has been sourced and made in a way that respects people, the environment, and animals.

We also collaborate across the industry to create a collective movement towards doing more good and creating innovative and open-source circular models for garment production.

Learn more about how we're building sustainable products and working in collaboration

Learn more about our approach to the circular economy

Sustainable Supply

The apparel supply chain is complex. C&A’s encompasses around 1 million people, employed through 722 global suppliers, with more than 1,600 production units. That means our supply chain — beginning with agriculture — accounts for a significant proportion of our footprint: for example, 90% of our water footprint. This is why our focus on the supply chain is so important. We focus many of our efforts on sustainable agriculture, drive social and environmental performance in our supply chain, and apply innovation to revolutionise the production system.

Learn more about how we're developing sustainable supply chains

Learn more about our work in sustainable agriculture

Sustainable Lives

C&A is a global retail fashion company that touches the lives of about 51,000 employees, 1 million apparel workers, and 100 million customers each year. What we do and the way we do it has a large impact on many different groups of people. That is why we focus on empowering our customers to make more sustainable shopping decisions, support the livelihoods of workers in our supply chain, and engage our employees as sustainability ambassadors.

Learn more about how we're promoting sustainable lives

Learn how we are impacting the lives of the workers in our supply chain

Developing our strategy

Defining our material issues

We developed our current sustainability strategy in 2015, which involved a detailed materiality assessment summarised below. We evaluate this mapping each year to ensure that new material issues and impacts are identified and included in our strategic review.

Read about our material issues

Research: We interviewed 40 key stakeholders, including development experts, researchers, and business leaders. We reviewed our historical sustainability performance, data from our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and research generated by customer interviews and focus groups.

Value chain impacts: We worked with external experts to develop a hybrid LCA model that helped us more fully understand the water and carbon footprints of our value chain. We also determined our social impacts through our Sustainable Supply Chain programmes and our human rights impact assessment.

Exploration: To determine those areas where we could make the biggest impact, we evaluated the success of existing C&A sustainability programmes and forecast industry trends over a 15-year period. Key initiatives like the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights informed this process.

Strategy: Using our identified material issues as an input, we developed our integrated sustainability strategy. It has three pillars: Sustainable Products, Sustainable Supply, and Sustainable Lives. We strive to address and include all material issues within our sustainability framework. Other issues, such as quality, product safety, and responsible marketing remain part of our core business approach.

For more about our material issues, see Materiality

We are continuously reviewing and developing our material issues and our strategies for addressing them. This ongoing review is based on progress towards our goals, and the changing conditions of the world around us. In 2018, several important developments influenced our ongoing strategy:

  • Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh: As the refugees of the northern Rakhine State of Myanmar fled from their homes, C&A evaluated its sourcing strategy in Myanmar. We engaged other brands and the Government of Myanmar on the issue. We continue to source from Myanmar, but are carefully monitoring the situation to determine whether changes in our strategy should be made. At the same time, C&A Foundation is increasing its support to the growing refugee population in Bangladesh.
    Read more about how we protect vulnerable workers 
  • Increased focus on the circular economy: As the topic of the circular economy becomes more important in the fashion industry, we are creating additional commitments to develop Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM products and to deeply engage the innovators of Fashion for Good to accelerate and scale circular technologies in our supply chain.
    Read more about our approach to the circular economy
  • Science-based climate targets: To contribute to the commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change, C&A will create science-based climate targets for our value chain, including our Scope 3 emissions. We have started to model our impacts to begin setting our goals beyond 2020.
    Read more about how we combat climate change
  • UN Women’s Empowerment Principles: Because women are so important to our business – and make up the majority of our customers, employees, and supply chain workers – we have created region-specific action plans on gender parity and the empowerment of women for our retail markets.
    Read more about our new commitment
  • Approaches to fair wages and eliminating excessive working hours: Apparel workers are often subject to long working hours, due in part to the way that clothing is purchased by brands, and in some cases because workers seek additional hours to supplement meagre wages. When workers earn fair wages, their incentive to seek more working hours is generally reduced. In this way, the issues of fair wages and working hours are interconnected in the apparel industry. In 2016, we developed a stringent policy on the avoidance of excessive working hours. In 2017, we examined the approach and recognised that it was not driving the change that we wanted to see. In 2018, we focused on purchasing practices and supplier ownership to drive additional progress on this important topic.
    Read more about how we are reducing excessive working hours
    Read more about stakeholder engagement