We want to bring sustainable fashion to the mainstream. That’s why we strive to make our clothes responsibly and sustainably, and to make it highly visible in our collections. This means we’re always looking to make the best choices we can for our customers, so they don’t have to choose between what’s sustainable and what’s not. We focus on a variety of sustainable and recycled fibre sources, pioneer new circular fashion products, and ensure that the workers in our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect. In 2018, 49% of the clothing offered in our stores was more sustainable and was certified or verified to credible third-party standards.
Our cornerstone commitment to certified organic cotton supports the sector, as does our work sourcing Better Cotton, buying 100% of our down from the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and sourcing viscose in line with the CanopyStyle initiative. By shifting a significant part of the market towards positive change, we can begin to make sustainability the new normal. We made good progress towards our 2020 goals in 2018, sourcing 71% of our cotton more sustainably and offering the world’s first affordable gold level Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM jeans. Our strong record of driving positive change in the apparel industry, together with a 178-year history of giving our customers the best clothing, makes us confident we can achieve our ambitious goals. To succeed, we will need to continually revisit and update our approaches, accelerate our efforts, partner with others across the apparel industry, and keep challenging the status quo.
We want a future where sustainable apparel isn’t the alternative – it’s the norm. We can help create this by always working in a way that respects people, nature, and the environment. Normalising sustainability means reimagining production processes throughout our supply chain. The fashion industry must embrace the circular economy, starting with designing products for their next use, while protecting ecosystems and providing dignified work for people. Products will be designed and created for their next life, and fashion will have a positive impact on our planet and its people.
Read more about our work on circular fashion.
Our 2020 goals put us on the right track to achieving this ambition. We strive to:
of our cotton will be more sustainable by 2020.
of all our raw materials, such as cotton, viscose and polyester, will be from more sustainable sources by 2020.
Continually increase Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM products in our retail markets.
Support circular innovations in our value chain through our partnership with Fashion for Good.
Towards 100% more sustainable cotton
Our goal to use 100% more sustainable cotton forms the cornerstone of our approach to sustainability. Cotton is the raw material we use the most worldwide, making up 57% of the materials we use. That means our work on sustainable cotton makes a significant contribution to reducing our overall carbon, water, and chemicals footprint throughout our value chain. Because we’re determined to meet our goal while underlining our commitment to industry collaboration, we source Better Cotton in addition to organic cotton.
Towards more traceable cotton
Another important step forward is the groundbreaking Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot we undertook in 2018 with Fashion for Good, C&A Foundation, the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), Bext360, Zalando, PVH, and Kering. This collaborative, pioneering initiative uses new technology to trace organic cotton in textiles through the value chain, which is valuable to ensuring the integrity, quality, and purity of organic cotton — and to making sure it is not blended with conventionally grown cotton at any stage.
Because the apparel supply chain is fragmented and complex, it is challenging to trace garments to their origins. The pilot is evaluating blockchain technology to enable traceability. The approach allows for efficient integration of data from multiple sources in the supply chain and the use of machine vision, artificial intelligence, micro-biome sequencing, and on-product unique markers to guarantee integrity and quality.
At the farm, the solution’s digital trail creates transparency by verifying the material and ensuring the fair price brands are paying reach the farmers. The digital trail also simplifies transactions for farmers and enables banks to provide loans. At the consumer level, the technology sheds a light on the suppliers and manufacturers behind a final product, increasing transparency. So far, the pilot has focused on the cotton spinning process. The next step will trace through to dyeing and finishing, and finally to the consumer.
100% responsibly sourced down
In 2016, we reached our target of sourcing 100% RDS-certified down and have continued in 2018. To take our commitment one step further, in 2017 we conducted visits to RDS-certified suppliers that had supplied C&A to better understand how the standard was implemented and where improvements could be made. We confirmed that RDS is effective in preventing many harmful practices, including force feeding and live plucking. However, we also found that the standard could be improved to ensure requirements are detailed enough in countries where animal welfare legislation is less strong. We shared the findings of our investigation with Textile Exchange, and since then, have been working with them to drive improvements to the standard. We are pleased to report that the revised standard is being reviewed for publication later in 2019. At the same time, we have been consolidating our down supply chain to work with fewer suppliers. C&A remains committed to the RDS as the best way to source our down responsibly.
Continuing our journey with recycled fibres
In 2017, C&A Europe started taking meaningful steps to increase our use of recycled fibres in our collection. We have since used recycled polyester in outerwear and blouses, recycled nylon in lingerie, and have continued using recycled cotton in denim. In 2018, this resulted in more than 300,000 items containing recycled polyester sold in our European stores. C&A stores in Europe also sold 95,000 pieces containing recycled cotton in both Mens’ and Ladies’ denim.
Protecting natural resources
Having made significant strides in sourcing sustainable cotton, our most-used material, we are now focusing on man-made cellulosics such as viscose, which comprise 8% of the raw materials we use.
Following our commitment to the CanopyStyle initiative and adopting a Forest & Fabric policy in 2015, C&A Europe and C&A China committed in 2017 to source all man-made cellulosic fibres from producers that are third-party verified suppliers of cellulosics and have been confirmed as ‘low risk’ of controversial fibre. In 2018, 100% of cellulosic fibre suppliers to Europe and China were verified as low risk.
C&A Brazil implemented a Forest & Fabric policy for its domestic supply chains with 20 suppliers who represent about 60% of the domestic man-made cellulosic fibre volume. We plan further rollout of the approach in our Brazilian supply chain in 2019.
On a global level, we have taken our commitment to responsible man-made cellulosics even further by committing to the Changing Markets Foundation Roadmap, released in 2018. The roadmap marks an important milestone towards responsible viscose and modal fibre manufacturing and outlines the steps needed to address these challenges.