The apparel industry faces environmental challenges at every stage of a garment’s life, from selecting raw materials for fabric, producing garments, and transportation to our stores. Through our detailed evaluation of environmental impacts, we believe that we can make the most positive difference by focusing in the following four key areas:
Chemicals - The World Bank estimates that up to 20% of industrial water pollution is caused by textile dyeing and treatment, where more than 8,000 chemicals are used across various production processes1. We collaborate with others in the industry to develop safer chemical formulations that help us meet our zero discharge goal. We also train suppliers to raise the level of chemical management performance across the supply chain, audit conformance to standards, monitor wastewater data, and research safer chemical formulations.
Water - We have determined that 84% of our water impacts lie in cotton agriculture. This is why we are focusing on buying more sustainable cotton, including organic cotton.
Climate change – We know that 95% of our climate impacts lie in our supply chain. This is why we support more sustainable cotton growing practices and strive to reduce chemicals and energy use during manufacturing, transportation of clothing to our stores and how consumers use our clothing.
Waste – In the developed world, over two-thirds of all clothing goes to landfill after use. We are looking at new ways to create endless flows of fibres and clothing and to reduce waste in our operations.
In 2016, we completed our first-ever carbon footprint of the C&A value chain—from cradle to grave. Leveraging the scientists at Aligned Incentives, we developed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) model to evaluate our scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. The model follows the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development GHG Protocol for corporate accounting and reporting and value chains. This hybrid LCA model combines input-output and process LCA methods, enabling us to focus on the key hot-spot areas within our value chain at a material, regional, and value chain level.
The study utilised granular data from over 370,000 shipments from our sourcing countries to our stores. We also evaluated over 6,700 unique non-product purchases to assess the value chain impacts of products and services that are related to our our business operations and administration. This combined with energy and fuel data for each of our stores, distribution centers and offices has provided us with a comprehensive data set used in the analysis.
Through this study, we estimated that our products contribute 5,085,360 metric tons of CO2e from cradle to grave. The breakdown of emissions tells us that we need to focus in the following areas:
Building on our previous water studies with the Water Footprint Network (WFN), in 2016 we developed our first global cradle-to-grave global water footprint for all C&A operations, as well as the clothing and apparel we sell in our stores. We worked with scientists at Aligned Incentives to create a hybrid Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) model that combines input-output and process LCA methods to estimate our global water consumption - and helped us to visualize both direct and indirect water impacts.
By far cotton agriculture is the most impactful in terms of water consumption when compared with all of our other activities in our business. We estimate that sourcing cotton accounts for 84% of our total water footprint, not including the impacts of chemicals on fresh water.
Through this study we estimate that 3.8 billion m3 of water is consumed in our value chain. The consumption breakdown shows we need to focus in the following areas:
Going forward, we aim to focus not only on these three impact areas, but also on the strong connection between our efforts and the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Clean Water and Sanitation. We will bring together the ongoing work of WFN with our Aligned Incentives water footprinting work to further understand our impacts on water consumption and the impacts of chemicals on surface water in cotton agriculture and garment manufacture areas.
Sustainable Chemicals Management audits at key fabric mills in 2015.
reduction in carbon emissions per total usable area in our stores and DCs.