Global frameworks provide a compass for our sustainability strategy

The sustainability challenges we face as a company are not unique to us - or to our sector. As business and economic priorities increasingly recognize the need to build shared and sustainable prosperity, businesses, governments, multi-national institutions, and civil society are coming together under common frameworks to drive positive change.

In 2015, we became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) - a set of universal principles addressing human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption for business. See the GRI Index for a summary of our progress in these important areas.

We also welcome the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by all UN member states in September 2015. The goals provide a framework and guide for advancing sustainability towards 2030. In the coming year, we will develop our approach to contributing to the SDGs in our operations, innovations, and partnerships. Six of the SDGs are especially relevant to our business, and some of the programmes we already have in place will help to advance these goals.

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UN Sustainable
Development Goals

The six global goals that will guide our strategy

The following six SDGs are particularly relevant to our business, our impacts, and the contributions we can make. We will be working over the coming years to develop our approach to these goals:

  • 5 – Gender equality
  • 6 – Clean water and sanitation
  • 8 – Decent work and economic growth
  • 12 – Responsible consumption and production
  • 13 – Climate action
  • 17 – Partnership for the goals

The work we’re doing to create fashion with a positive impact contributes to these SDGs in many ways. With partners around the world, we’re driving meaningful change in our own business and in the broader apparel industry. One of our key partners, C&A Foundation, also complements our efforts in many of these areas. C&A Foundation works across the entire apparel value chain to bring about systemic change in the industry and generate long-term solutions.

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SDG5 – Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 5 states that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but the basis for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. When women are educated, healthy, and economically empowered, families and communities thrive. At C&A, our business is focused on our customer - HER - and women are the driving force of our customer focus. Just as the majority of our customers and employees are women, so are most of the people making our clothes. We are working to empower women and achieve gender equality across the supply chain, from raw materials to manufacturing in production units.

  • Our supplier auditing - in around 3,500 factories per year - is central to our efforts to end any discrimination and violence against women because most factory workers are women.
  • We’re collaborating with other organizations, including the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and C&A Foundation, to abolish Sumangali, a form of bonded labour in India.
  • Our global Inspiring Women employee engagement campaign in 2015 raised over €1 million for charities helping to empower women.

C&A Foundation

  • C&A Foundation supports 13 grassroots organisations through the Freedom Fund to address the many factors which perpetuate the system of Sumangali, including culture, regulatory framework, poverty and education
  • C&A Foundation is also supporting charity Terres des Hommes on helping exploited women and girls to escape Sumangali
  • C&A Foundation convened leading actors in gender justice (July 2015) to identify the gaps in the global apparel industry and inform its approach of incorporating a gender lens across all of the foundation’s work.
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SDG 6 - Clean water and sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all

With the Water Footprint Network and funding from C&A Foundation, we’ve undertaken a large-scale water footprint study. We’ll use this when we develop the C&A water strategy, including supporting farmers in reducing the water used for cotton agriculture. 

  • We are working to reduce the volume of water used by our suppliers during the wet processing stages in manufacturing, through initiatives like the Partnership for Cleaner Textile in Bangladesh (PACT) and the Better Mills Initiative (BMI).
  • Our Global Chemicals Management Strategy reflects our commitment to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, water stewardship and resource management. This will improve water quality by eliminating hazardous chemical discharge.
  • We have joined the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), to support cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices, including using less water. C&A Foundation is a founding funder of OCA.
  • We are a founding member of Cotton Connect, an initiative to transform the cotton industry.  Through their work they support organic, BCI and REEL cotton to reduce environmental impacts including water. CottonConnect builds capacity amongst the supply chain on water management, monitors and evaluates water usage, as well as creates and implements community investment programmes, such as drip irrigation programmes.

C&A Foundation

In addition to the OCA, C&A Foundation is supporting farmers in the organic sector through partners such as CottonConnect, Rare, ASA, WWF, and Aga Khan Foundation.

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SDG 8 – Decent work and
economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

The apparel industry has an important role to play in providing quality jobs and stimulating economic growth. We work with our production units to further increase the quality of jobs in our sector everywhere we operate, and therefore ensuring labour rights and safe and secure working conditions are central to our sustainable supply chain auditing and capacity-building programmes. We also create jobs in the communities where we have C&A stores and offices.

  • In 2015, we began rolling out a supplier ownership programme that will help to build supplier capabilities and move beyond audit compliance to continuous improvement.
  • We are actively involved in Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT), a global initiative to unite stakeholders in improving wages through industry collective bargaining in key production countries, world-class manufacturing standards, and responsible purchasing to increase the wage floor.

C&A Foundation

  • C&A Foundation is working with the Freedom Fund is helping to tackle Sumangali, a form of bonded labour.
  • C&A Foundation is partnering with two organisations – LaborVoices and Good World Solutions – whose technology helps workers share updates on labour conditions safely and anonymously using their mobile phones.
  • Through a two-year pilot initiative with GoodWeave, C&A Foundation is seeking to improve conditions for homeworkers in India.
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SDG 12 – Responsible
Consumption and Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 12 states that sustainable consumption and production aims at ‘doing more and better with less’. This principle is at the heart of our global sustainability strategy, from our work on clean environment in the supply chain to our circular economy commitment.

C&A Foundation

C&A Foundation is supporting farmers in the organic sector through partners such as Organic Cotton Accelerator, CottonConnect, Rare, ASA, WWF, and Aga Khan Foundation.

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SDG 13 – Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

We're working to reduce our carbon emissions across the value chain. We recently conducted our first full global carbon footprint analysis to understand the impacts at each stage of our value chain and will be developing a new climate change strategy.

C&A Foundation

  • C&A Foundation is working to reduce the climate impact of cotton agriculture through addressing systemic factors which perpetuate unsustainable environmental practices, as well as helping farmers to be more resilient to climate change by supporting them in converting to organic production.
  • Partners include OCA, CottonConnect, Rare, ASA, WWF, and Aga Khan Foundation.
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SDG 17 – Partnerships

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the partnership for sustainable development

This goal recognizes that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society. At C&A, collaboration and partnerships are central to our approach. We participate in multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources in support of the SDGs. In 2016, we will build on our stakeholder engagement strategy to identify additional partnerships that support this work.

  • ACT: C&A is one of the founding members of ACT and part of the core group establishing its strategy.
  • The Bangladesh Accord. C&A was one of the first brands to sign the Bangladesh Accord, established to improve building and fire safety. We remain an active member of the steering committee.
  • ETI: The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe. ETI’s vision is a world where all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, and enjoy conditions of freedom, security and equity.
  • CottonConnect: We founded CottonConnect with the Shell Foundation to support the production of more sustainable cotton. By 2015, CottonConnect aims to aid the supply chain in the production of approximately 500 million garments made from more sustainably grown cotton; positively affect the livelihoods of more than 500,000 farmers and their families; and increase the land under sustainable cotton cultivation practices by 1 million acres of land - thereby reducing water consumption and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • For a list of our key partnerships, see Partnerships and memberships.

C&A Foundation

Collaboration and convenings are core to the work of C&A Foundation, who regularly bring people together for a more effective collective impact. Examples include:

  • Collaboration in Tamil Nadu to help end forced and bonded labour schemes via the Freedom Fund and the newly formed Amsterdam Coalition.
  • Convening of organic cotton stakeholders in Indore, India, in March 2014, to align the industry on actions to be taken. This led to the creation of the Fair Trade and Organic Cotton Secretariat.
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