Our 2020 goal is for 100% of the cotton we use to be more sustainable. In 2018, 71% of the cotton we sold was either certified organic cotton or sourced as Better Cotton. By sourcing more sustainable cotton, we are normalising better practices across the cotton industry and demonstrating that sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton is possible.
Certified organic cotton is our most sustainable option, and accounts for 38% of the cotton we use. For the sixth year, C&A is the world’s leading buyer of organic cotton. We never blend organic cotton with non-organic cotton when it goes into our collections, and we make sure all the organic cotton we use is certified to third-party standards (Organic Content Standard, OCS, or Global Organic Textile Standard, GOTS).
Production PrinciplesCotton is used by nearly everyone, every day, and supports 250 million people’s livelihoods [SOURCE: BCI]. Cotton also makes up 57% of the materials we use in our clothing, so it’s where we can have the biggest impact with the right interventions.
Conventional cotton farming and production processes have a much bigger impact than more sustainable cotton. This is why we follow strict policies to ensure the integrity of our more sustainable cotton fibre from farm to store and commit to only sourcing more sustainable cotton by 2020:
Cotton is a shrub that is native to tropical and subtropical regions all over the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India. Currently, 90% of the certified organic cotton that is used in our garments comes from India, where small holder farmers grow cotton and other staple crops using organic farming practices. In recent years, we have worked with NGOs in China to cultivate new sources of transition organic cotton in the Binzhou region in Northern Shandong Province.
Like organic cotton, we understand the sources of Better Cotton through the Better Cotton Platform (BCP) to the spinner level. Currently over 90% of our BCI cotton comes from China, India, Pakistan, Brazil and the United States as declared by spinners in the BCP tool.
Work towards our 2020 goal for 100% of our cotton to be more sustainable.
Increase Better Cotton uptake in all our retail markets.
Progress towards our 2020 goal
Our use of more sustainable cotton has improved, with 71% used across the business in 2018, up from 67% last year. In 2019, we will continue focusing on closing the gap to 100% by engaging with our entire cotton supply chain towards creating change across the sector.
*From 2012 to 2016, this included REEL cotton
Signing the Prince of Wales Cotton Communiqué
In 2017, we joined the Prince of Wales Cotton Communiqué, the first cross-standard initiative for more sustainable cotton. The communiqué, set up by the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit in partnership with Marks & Spencer and the Soil Association, asks brands and retailers to procure more sustainable cotton and to pledge to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
Our own goal is to be sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020 and, as the world’s top buyer of certified organic cotton and third top buyer of more sustainable cotton, we have the opportunity to share our learnings with our industry and to encourage collaboration between sustainable cotton standards. To this end, we have contributed to the CottonUp guide — supported by C&A Foundation —by publishing a case study on our journey towards more sustainable cotton. The interactive CottonUp guide addresses three major topics related to sustainable cotton: why it’s important, what you need to know and do, and how to get started.
Tackling climate change
Organic cotton reduces the global warming potential of cotton production by 46% [SOURCE: Textile Exchange] and is therefore a key component of our climate change strategy and how we are developing our science-based targets.
Supporting cotton workers in our supply chain
Buying organic cotton has a direct positive impact on the health and safety of farming communities who are no longer exposed to hazardous chemicals. We also have a history of taking concrete steps to support cotton workers when required. More than 10 years ago in 2007, we signed the Cotton Pledge against forced labour, committing to end the practice of forced labour in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan.
Making more sustainable cotton the norm
Since our journey to more sustainable cotton started more than 10 years ago, it has been a cross-functional effort, embedded in our day-to-day activities. Driven by targets, owned by the business, and reported on at the highest level, more sustainable cotton is a central commitment for C&A. Our efforts reach beyond our operations: we seek to improve cotton agriculture, the lives of farmers, and the environment. We are doing this by increasing global demand for organic cotton and Better Cotton, as well as building capacity from the ground up – from the grower to the garment maker – across our supplier network.
We believe in creating more sustainable cotton products for our customers without passing on any additional cost or making the choice difficult for them.