In a circular model, products are designed and developed with their next use in mind. They are produced with pure materials, using safe chemicals. This way, fibres can be reclaimed at the end of the garment’s use to be reused or recycled into new clothing, carpets, or other products – or safely returned to nature through composting. Social justice, including safeguarding health and safety and fair labour, water stewardship, and the use of renewable energy, are also an integral part of the circular model.
Why circular fashion is important
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation detailed the challenges and opportunities of a circular economy in A New Textiles Economy. The report demonstrates the growing momentum in the industry to move towards a circular economy, and gives us all a strong environmental, social, and business case for doing so:
The case for circular fashion
We believe in circular fashion. Our vision is one of a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing.
To address the challenges of the linear fashion model, we have developed a strategy with three major elements to address the six enablers of a circular economy in the fashion industry:
For a closer look at our circular fashion strategy, view this video.
Continue our partnership with Fashion for Good, focused on incubating and accelerating circular technologies in the apparel industry.
Drive industry alignment through Make Fashion Circular initiative from Ellen MacArthur foundation.
Launch another major innovation and pioneering achievement in our Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM Platinum denim.
Expand our take-back programme.
In 2019, we focused on the following areas, where we demonstrated concrete results:
Piloting fashion for good innovations
Increasing innovations in Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM products
This year we launched the world's most sustainable denim fabric, Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM at the Platinum level. The first ever Platinum level Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM fabric is made with 100% rapidly renewable resources and is fully recyclable. We have also launched more collections that feature Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM items. In addition, all Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM T-shirts sold by C&A are certified at the Gold level.
Expanding 'we take it back'
This year, our 'we take it back' programme grew to additional stores in the retail markets, providing our customers with even more options to recycle unwanted clothing and contribute to the circular economy. In Europe, stores and an online collection option in Germany and France collected 1,397 metric tons of unwanted garments for reuse or recycling as part of the ‘we take it back’ programme. In Mexico, where the number of participating stores grew from 10 in 2018 to 34 in 2019, about 8.5 metric tons of clothing were collected in 2019.
In Brazil, where 157 C&A stores participate, Movimento ReCiclo, as the programme is known, collected more than 16.5 metric tons of items. Of this, 70% of the pieces were deemed to be in good condition and 30% were sent for recycling. The pieces in good condition went to Centro Social Carisma, an organisation that handles distribution for reuse. The pieces that cannot be used anymore were sent to Retalhar, which is responsible for the reverse manufacturing process, including sanitizing the items, removing trims, and defibration. The resulting material is used primarily in the automotive industry.
As an employee engagement strategy, in early 2020, the Movimento ReCiclo programme devised a challenge for employees at the head office. The goal was for employees to bring in clothes they no longer used — to 2,020 pieces in three weeks. Employees exceeded this target, bringing in more than 2,700 pieces for donation or recycling.
Jeans Redesign project
This new project applies circular economy principles to provide positive outcomes for people and the environment. The Jeans Redesign project aims to demonstrate action, focus innovation eﬀorts, and increase transparency, and members of the fashion industry worked together to develop shared guidelines that represent a new level of ambition. C&A is committed to the Jeans Redesign guidelines.
Engaging on policy
Both within the European Union and in the member states, C&A has been active in shaping policy around the circular economy. We will continue our eﬀorts as work on the European Green Deal and Product Environmental Footprint progresses, including member state actions.
Read more about product innovation
 In January 2020, C&A Foundation became part of Laudes Foundation.
Accelerating change through Fashion for Good
In March 2017, Fashion for Good – founded by Laudes Foundation – was launched in Amsterdam, with C&A as one of its first brand partners. In 2018 and 2019, we continued our work with Fashion for Good to help transform the apparel sector by supporting:
As a multi-stakeholder organisation, Fashion for Good’s single focus is to transform the apparel sector, making ‘good fashion’ the norm by convening brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-proﬁt organisations, innovators, and funders to make this happen. Fashion for Good serves as an innovation platform that provides promising start-up innovators with access to mentoring, funding and a global network of organisations that they need to scale and grow their innovations. It also acts as a convener for change, bringing together a circular apparel community, building a good fashion movement, and creating freely available resources. The initiative has gained tremendous momentum, with over 110 innovators and more than 60 pilots facilitated so far.
 This work was started by C&A Foundation and continues under Laudes Foundation.
Laudes Foundation, Fashion for Good, MBDC, McDonough Innovation, Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute, Circular Economy 100, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator, Lafayette Plug and Play Accelerator, I:CO, Centro Social Carisma, EIG, Retalhar, Make Fashion Circular