Climate Change Taking a science-based approach

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 look at this issue using a science based approach.


In February 2020 we were proud to announce that C&A received approval from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for absolute reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% across all scopes by 2030. Our science-based target (SBT) approval marks yet another milestone in our sustainability journey to reduce CO2 and other GHG emissions by sourcing more sustainable materials and by responsibly managing supply chain environmental performance.

Over the past several years, we have been recognized as one of the few brands to have disclosed its entire GHG inventory for five years. Supported by consulting firm Aligned Incentives, the life cycle assessment (LCA) leader, we have been focused for over two years on modelling and validating our SBTs through a combination of process LCA and hybrid modelling of the entire C&A value chain.

Our new GHG reduction targets are science based and are in alignment with the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

We will deliver the following:

  • Absolute GHG emissions reduction by 30% for our offices, distribution centres, and retail stores by 2030.
  • Absolute GHG emissions reduction by 30% in our value chain by 2030.

And we will aspire to:

  • Use 100% renewable energy by 2025 in our offices, distribution centres, and retail stores.

Currently, our own operations (scope 1 and 2) make up only 4% of our total carbon footprint. We will continue to improve efficiencies and aim to source all electricity from renewable sources.

The challenge will be our supply chain and other downstream sources, such as the use of our products after they are sold (scope 3), where many emissions originate. To address this challenge, we will continue to focus broadly and deep within our supply chain in the following areas:

  • Continue to drive a large proportion of more sustainable raw materials like certified organic cotton, where C&A has been recognised for many years to be the leader both in terms of absolute volumes and share. Each year, our procurement of certified organic cotton is equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road.
  • Continue to support the Higg FEM module by increasing adoption rates and engaging our supply chain on improving its performance. C&A currently has one of the highest adoption rates with over 400 facilities, where over 50% have been verified.
  • Continue to drive innovation as a principle partner of Fashion for Good, where start-ups’ circular and sustainable technologies are actively piloted in the our supply chain.
  • Achieve further innovations in circular product design, building on the development of the most sustainable apparel products in the world with C&A’s Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified™ jeans and circular knit collection. The associated GHG emission reductions have been estimated to be as much as 85%.
  • Participate in a new collaboration with brands under the Gold Standard Initiative to support and align on value chain interventions and globally aligned accounting standards.

The Science Based Targets initiative mobilises companies to set science-based targets and boost their competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. It is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global CompactWorld Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Read more about science-based targets

How we measure and account for GHGs

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 2019 estimate uses data from more than 83,000 shipments from our sourcing countries to our stores. We also evaluated emissions across 3,811 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.  We continue to use this new approach in our estimates.

Making progress

Total greenhouse gas emissions 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 2019 tCO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2019 Years 2017 2018 5,436,246 5,146,998 5,485,876 6% decrease

Total greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain

Total greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain, year-on-year comparison

Stages of Life Cycle

Unit: tCO~2~e

Source: Aligned Incentives, 2019

Reducing our climate impact through more sustainable materials

Roughly 10% of our GHG emissions are from agriculture, most of which is from cotton agriculture. In 2019, 94% 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 2019 avoided roughly 58,772 metric tons of GHG emissions, or a reduction of 11% 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 tCO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2019 Cotton mix 539,109 480,337 10% reduction

In 2019, almost 8% 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 cellulosic, we have avoided roughly 57,158 metric tons of GHG emissions, or a reduction of 45% compared to conventional cellulosic fibres.

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 tCO 2 e Source: Aligned Incentives, 2019 Cellulosic mix 128,293 71,136 45% reduction

Together, the combination of sourcing more sustainable cotton and cellulosic fibres has enabled us to avoid 115,929 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 45% of total emissions. Our SCM programme works to address these impacts, and we continued focusing additionally on SCM 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 2.3% of our total GHG emissions. We have a 2020 target to reduce emissions intensity by 20% compared to 2012.

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 2019, we reduced our carbon intensity by 29% and increased our energy efficiency by 23%, 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 GHG emissions and carbon efficiency of stores, offices, and distribution centres

Variance compared to baseline

Source: Aligned Incentives 2019

Consumer use

The use and disposal of clothing by our customers makes up 9% 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?

Already, in just one year, we have reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 9.5% compared to the new 2018 baseline used to measure progress towards our science-based targets, thanks to increased renewable energy purchases. In addition, supply chain emissions have been reduced 4.3% from the baseline. Both are below the target trajectory line and reflect positive progress toward our recently approved science-based targets.

In 2020, we will focus on the following areas to support our approved science based targets:

  1. Develop short- and long-term roadmaps: We will work with our retail markets to define roadmaps and marginal abatement curves that focus on the interventions needed in the short- and long-term for scope 3 emissions. These interventions will be prioritised and resources allocated to deliver our planned reduction.
  2. Map carbon neutrality in our stores, offices, and distribution centres: We will begin to roadmap the interventions needed to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.