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 using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) across our entire value chain – from raw material extraction to end of use.


In 2018, we committed to the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in alignment with the Paris Agreement. This included developing and evaluating various target scenarios to achive a well below 2 degree C Global Warming parthway.  We have conducted a detailed analysis that will continue through 2019, culminating the publication of our targets in December of 2019. The work is being done in coordination with the development of our next sustainability strategy.

Read more about science-based targets


Approach and methodology

Working with the scientists at Aligned Incentives we have determined our GHG inventory for Scope 1, 2, and 3. To accomplish this, we use a hybrid LCA in accordance with the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for corporate accounting and reporting and value chains. Our model combines input-output and process LCA methods, enabling us to focus on the key hotspots in our value chain.

Our 2018 estimate uses data from more than 523,000 shipments from our sourcing countries to our stores. We also evaluated emissions across 3,120 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.

Improving our model to enhance our approach

In 2017, we updated our estimate for the consumer use phase by utilising customer survey data, garment-specific care instructions, and garment durability data from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. In 2018, we updated waste ratios at each life cycle stage, giving us an even more accurate understanding of material inputs and resulting waste embedded in the products sold.  All previous estimates were recalculated to reflect this improvement to the methodology.

Making progress

In 2018, GHG emissions were 14% lower than our baseline year of 2016. We have observed a slight increase in GHG emissions from 2017 due to increases in sales; however, we continue to demonstrate progress through the sourcing of more sustainable raw materials like sustainably sourced cotton and viscose.

Total greenhouse gas emissions 2018, by scope

Reporting Category

Scope Grouping

Impact Amount

% of Total

Impact Unit

Scope 1

Fuel oil




Scope 1

Natural gas




Scope 2

Purchased electricity




Scope 2

Purchased district heating




Scope 2

Purchased district cooling




Scope 3

Purchased goods and services




Scope 3

Fuel-and energy-related activities




Scope 3

Upstream transportation and distribution




Scope 3

Waste generated in operations




Scope 3

Business travel




Scope 3

Employee travel




Scope 3

Use of sold products




Scope 3

EOL treatment of sold products





Total greenhouse gas emissions, year-on-year comparison

6,600,000 6,400,000 5,000,000 4,800,000 5,200,000 5,400,000 5,600,000 5,800,000 6,200,000 6,000,000 2016 2017 2018 mt CO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2018 Years 6,348,491 5,436,246 5,485,876 1% increase 14% reduction

Total greenhouse gas emissions 2018 across our life cycle

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

Stages of Life Cycle

Unit: mtCO~2~e

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2018

Reducing our climate impact through more sustainable materials

Roughly 9% of our GHG emissions are from agriculture, most of which is from cotton agriculture. In 2018, 71% of the cotton we sourced was more sustainable, meaning that it is grown organically or sourced as Better Cotton. We estimate that our sustainable sourcing of cotton in 2018 avoided roughly 54,600 metric tons of GHG emissions, or a reduction of 10% in GHG emissions compared to conventional cotton.

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

300,000 600,000 450,000 Global Average for Conventional Cotton C&A Cotton Mix mt CO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2018 Cotton mix 542,295 487,710 10% reduction

In 2018, roughly 9% of our GHG emissions from raw material production is from man-made cellulosic fibres. We have an aspiration to source all of our viscose free from ancient and endangered forests and from suppliers that use best available technologies (BAT). This effort is already contributing to noticeable emission reductions. We estimate that by sourcing more sustainable viscose, we have avoided roughly 62,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, or a reduction of 47% compared to conventional viscose.

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

0 140,000 120,000 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 Global Average for Conventional Cellulosic Fibres C&A Cellulosic Mix mt CO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2018 Cellulosic mix 113,213 71,159 47% reduction

Together, the combination of sourcing more sustainable cotton and viscose has enabled us to avoid over 116,000 metric tons of GHGs.

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 44% of total emissions. Our SCM programme focuses on these impacts, where we will focus additionally in 2019 to strengthen our approach and drive reductions over time.

Reducing our emissions from retail operations

Our scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions account for around 3% of our total GHG emissions. We have a 2020 target to reduce emissions intensity by 20% compared to 2012.  In 2019, we sourced 31% of our electricity from renewable sources.

In order to calculate our emissions intensity, we normalise using Gross Leasable Area (GLA) or the total square metres (m2) that can be leased for our stores, offices, and distribution centres. In 2018, we reduced our carbon intensity by 16% and increased our energy efficiency by 20%, compared to 2012. The reductions experienced were due to improvements in energy management, lighting, and practices across a variety of retail stores in our four retail markets.

In the graph below, our emissions estimate for purchased energy (electricity, district heating, and cooling) is market-based, Scope 2 methodology.

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

Variance compared to baseline

GLA: Gross Leasable Area

Consumer use

The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 10% of our total carbon footprint. Prior to 2017, our past estimates of consumer use impacts were based on large assumptions with high levels of uncertainty. In 2017, however, 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 had 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 to 85%) of our customers line-dry their clothes, and a majority wear articles such as trousers, shirts, and blouses multiple times before washes.

Also 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 to 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

% share per drying method
Product type per Retail market

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

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

% wears per washes
Product type by retail market

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2017

Where next?

In 2019, we will finalise our science-based targets, where we will focus on reducing GHG emissions in the areas where we have the highest leverage and largest impact.