Leadership message 

Dear C&A stakeholders,

2020 is a year none of us will soon forget. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and our entire industry significantly. The resulting challenges to our business and our value chain are unprecedented in our lifetimes.

Throughout the year, different trade-offs had to be made, but we have remained dedicated to supporting our global employees, partners, and suppliers; we know that we are stronger together. It is clear that our lives and our business will not return to ‘normal’ soon. We will be confronted with the lasting impacts of COVID-19 on our business and private lives for a significant time to come.

But we see reason for hope. We recognise opportunities to create positive change and contribute to more resilient economic systems, as we commit to building back better — in our company, the communities we serve, and across the fashion industry as a whole.

Delivering on our 2020 sustainability goals
Adaptation is critical. Our path — and our commitment to it — remains clear. To that end, we are well on track to successfully achieve our 5-year sustainability strategy and goals set for 2020. As we share in this report, 94% of our cotton was more sustainable in 2019, up from 71% in 2018. This brings us very close to our 2020 goal of 100%, which we believe we can achieve in the coming year or two, depending on the continued effects of the pandemic on our supply chain.

An important component of this goal — and one we are especially proud to have achieved — is that we reached 60% Better Cotton in 2019 as a share of our total cotton products, up 27 points over 2018. Better Cotton supports improved social and environmental conditions on the ground and contributes to transforming the fashion industry.  

Working closely with our suppliers, we also made progress in sustainable chemical management. By the end of 2019, 97% of the facilities in our supply chain were meeting our requirements for safer chemistry, up from 29% in 2017, which was the first year of our Sustainable Chemical Management Performance Standard. This is a significant accomplishment and we are very pleased that our suppliers have embraced environmental and chemical improvements in every key sourcing country throughout our supply chain.

During 2019, we also received approval from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for absolute reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 30% across all scopes, joining a small but growing group of organisations working to hold global warming below 2°C. Already, in just one year, we have reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 9.5% compared to our 2018 baseline and supply chain emissions have been reduced 4.3%. Both reflect good progress towards our science-based targets.

Continuing our sustainability leadership
As we continue addressing the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, we are convinced that sustainability leadership is more critical than ever. And now that the timeline of our 2020 sustainability strategy is coming to a close, we are establishing even more ambitious goals for the future.

Going forward, we have set ourselves the goal to reduce our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. This ambitious goal will require us to plan and implement innovative solutions to reduce energy use in our operations and our supply chain. In addition, we will work towards an even greater percentage of more sustainable core materials and more products aligned with principles of circularity, among other ambitions. As we advance our sustainability journey, we will continue to support the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact in the areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-Corruption.

Contributing to the global reset
Our company has overcome many challenges in the last 179 years, and we are convinced that by working together with all our stakeholders, we will get through this challenge together. All of us on the C&A Europe leadership team have been impressed to see the level of support, sacrifice, positive attitude, adaptability, and care demonstrated for one another during these trying times. In particular, our store staff on the front line deserve our collective thanks for making the customer experience a positive one.

We would also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the colleagues behind the scenes who have made our continued operations possible, with an unwavering focus on our sustainability commitment. Your adaptability, creativity and hard work continue to inspire. In 2019, we launched the next phase of our programme to engage and inspire employees in sustainability. #BeTheChange now serves not only as a reminder to embed sustainable practices into our daily lives, but serves as a call to join forces as we rebuild communities and economies impacted by the pandemic.

To be sure, the coming months and years will not be easy. But the foundation is there and we stand firm in our commitment to the planet and our societies. We will participate in a global reset that promotes environmental regeneration and improves lives, leveraging our new sustainability commitments to lead our contributions. And we will take bold action to build back better, not only for our business but for our employees, customers, and the communities we touch around the world. We have emerged from the first wave of COVID-19 stronger, and will continue to confidently engage with the future, as we continue to bring our sustainability commitments to life.

Edward K. Brenninkmeijer
CEO C&A Europe and CEO C&A AG
Chairman, Global Sustainability Committee, C&A AG