Business overview

Established in 1976, C&A Brazil operates 297 stores in every state throughout Brazil. The company offers fashion trends adapted to the tastes and style of Brazilian consumers, as well as mobile phones and electronic devices. We also offer our customers online shopping options. Through the C&A Collection platform, we create exclusive collections in partnership with Brazilian and international stylists and designers. C&A Brazil is a pioneer on many fronts in the Brazilian retail market, including Sustainability. In 2006, the company started a local and pioneer program to monitor the suppliers, with the implementation of Socam - now, SSC. Since than, we did more than 13,000 audits in our supply chain. And in 2009, we opened an eco store in Porto Alegre and achieved LEED certification through further retrofits. In 2010, we became the first fashion retailer to sign the National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labour (Pacto Nacional pela Erradicaçāo do Trabalho Escravo).

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In 2013, we launched C&A Brazil’s Sustainability Framework, setting the direction for five key focus areas: responsibility in the supply chain, impact of products, environmental impact of stores, appreciation of our employees, and engagement. This regional sustainability framework established the groundwork for sustainability within the business, and in 2015, along with C&A’s other regions, we consolidated our commitments in C&A’s global sustainability strategy.

C&A Brazil has published sustainability reports since 2010, and was the first clothing retailer in Brazil to report in accordance to GRI guidelines. Also in the last report, C&A Brazil was the first fashion retailer to have the report assured by PwC. You can download our previous reports here.

C&A Brazil’s progress against the global sustainability strategy

Sustainable products

With hundreds of suppliers and subcontractors, the textile Brazilian supply chain is complex, informal and fragmented. A supplier may work with 20 different sewing workshops, which creates challenges for how the companies can responsibly manage the full network. These subcontractors are often small companies operating in residential areas, without strict building and fire safety practices. Some of these companies, typically in large cities, might also employ immigrant workers from Bolivia and Paraguay, who often work illegally in poor conditions, and without a full understanding of their labour rights.

In this context and assuming our responsibility about the supply chain, since 2006, C&A Brazil has an audit program that applies the Global Code of Conduct for the Supply of Merchandise to monitor our supply chain. Our Code of Conduct establishes safe and fair labour, social and environmental standards and guidelines to be followed by all suppliers and authorized subcontractors, in addition to guiding our audit processes.

Since 2015, we take a global and collaborative approach to addressing sustainability issues with our Brazilian supply chain and now we have comparable practices for monitoring and evaluating supplier performance. In 2015 we had 154 suppliers and 955 subcontractors.

As the world’s fifth-biggest cotton producer, Brazil has a great opportunity to help protect people and the environment by adopting more sustainable cultivation practices. But growing organic cotton in Brazil is challenging due to the tropical climate. C&A Brazil focuses on expanding the availability of more sustainable forms of cotton. Read more about our more sustainable cotton baby collection, and our efforts to encourage Better Cotton production for the local market.

Circular economy

We’re increasingly looking at ways we can give clothing a new lease of life. In 2014, we introduced a programme to recycle store employees’ uniforms. We donated the uniforms to NGOs, who used them to create gifts. We collected nearly 66,000 pieces of clothing in 2014, and an additional 10,500 uniforms and 600 shoes in 2015.

Sustainable supply

In order to support society efforts to fight against slave labor, we participate in the National Agreement no Erradicate Slave Labour, a civil society initiative created by Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social, the International Labor Organization, the Instituto Observatório Social and Repórter Brasil, national reference on the defense of Human Rights.

We also participate in the certification program of the Brazilian Association of Textile Retail (ABVTEX), which represents the main chains in Brazilian retail marketing clothing and fashion accessories, in addition to home textiles.

In 2013, the NGO Repórter Brasil launched an app that presents the initiatives of the main Brazilian retailers to avoid their products to be made in innapropriate labour conditions. In the first year, C&A Brazil was the only company with the green light and since then we kept it. Read more about the app here.

Helping suppliers improve their business skills

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Strong business skills are vital to managing and expanding a small enterprise. In Brazil, many of our suppliers operate small businesses and don’t necessarily have the resources to invest in commercial training. We started a Business Management programme with key suppliers in 2014 to build their commercial skills and confidence. Twenty key suppliers completed the five-module programme in 2015, gaining knowledge and practical skills in topics quality, productivity, finance, taxation, and people management. See more here.

In 2014, we trained 75% of employees from our commercial teams on the importance of supply chain responsibility. In 2015, we also trained commercial teams and all of our 154 direct suppliers on C&A’s new global Code of Conduct and helped suppliers raise their standards in line with the Code, addressing important issues such as fire and building safety. Any new suppliers will also be trained as soon as they are defined. 

The Brazilian office of C&A Foundation, Instituto C&A, is helping to improve the lives of Bolivian and Paraguayan immigrants working in apparel factories in Brazil. C&A Brazil also helped found InPACTO, which aims to eradicate slave labour in Brazil.

Clean environment

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Waste management is an important topic in Brazil. Companies must have a solid waste management plan that outlines how they intend to process each of their waste streams. This can be a challenge because the infrastructure and specialist supplier network that can turn waste into valuable commodities is still fairly limited. In 2013, ahead of the deadline, we developed our waste management plan to map the 25 different types of waste generated in our own operations. As C&A stores in Brazil also sell smartphones and tablets, this includes electronic waste. Through our waste initiatives, we aim to continuously increase recycling rates, reduce our environmental impact, and create a positive social impact by supporting cooperatives and non-profit organizations, when possible.

Since the plan was developed, we have created discharge flows for each of the 13 types of waste we prioritized in 2015. These identified the more appropriate solutions to address each type of waste.  In 2015, we also developed an electronic system to monitor how and where we process waste, and allow us to measure waste produced by C&A stores, offices, and distribution centres. 

Water and energy

In 2015, Brazil went through a challenging water crisis, which reflected in the energetic aspect, since the main energy source for Brazil is hydropower. Trying to keep the power supply, the government had to mix the energy sources increasing significantly the cost.

To deal with that C&A Brazil created a committee to discuss the water and energy issues and to think about opportunities to reduce our consumption. One action that emerged in this group was the communication and awareness actions to our employees, showing them how to reduce water consumption.

For energy, we implemented some initiatives as air conditioner and lighting management, as well as implementation of LED lighting in 10 stores. These initiatives helped us to save 34,887 GJ of our consumption.

Sustainable lives

To deliver the best customer experience in our stores, we have to really get to know our Brazilian customers—what motivates them, what they value, and what they think about sustainability. We’ve always included our customers in the dialogues to help us identify the sustainability topics we should get involved with. In 2015, we did a co-creation survey with our customers in which they told us they value the sustainability initiatives that are most relevant to them as customers, such as packaging and bags, but also labour conditions and origin of materials.

Engaging employees

We also know that our customers want to be served by well-trained, efficient, fairly paid, and satisfied employees. In 2015, we provided employees with comprehensive training on C&A’s new global Code of Ethics. Thanks to this approach, 12.676 employees from our distribution centres, head office and stores received and signed the Code.

Besides that we have some training initiatives focused on our store employees, as:

Leaders and Supervisors' school: content as leadership, feedback, individual development plan and experience for HER are part of this training of which the main objective is to develop the potential of the leaders and supervisors. This training is based on a digital platform. We also have initiatives to develop the leadership. The Leader of the Future Program we develop employees from all the teams of the business with high performance. Contents as knowledge about the business and the market; behavioral training; focus on HER; on the job and are part of the training and at the end of the program, the participants has to build a project. An online platform with e-learning programs are also available for all employees. Topics such as sustainability snf recycling are also included in the e-learnings offered. To engage and communicate internally we developed an internal vehicles matrix which regularly provides information about the company and its strategy. As a part of people development strategy each employee at C&A Brazil is evaluated annually in the performance management cycle review.

These initiatives helped us to reach the P90 in our employee engagement survey, which means we are recognized by our employees as a great place to work.

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Instituto C&A: shifting focus

Now a part of C&A Foundation, Instituto C&A has built its reputation over the past 24 years for leadership in education. At the end of 2015, Instituto C&A started shifting its focus to the apparel industry in general, and on empowering women, supporting C&A Foundation’s mission.

Improving education

Instituto C&A’s investment in education programmes will continue for three more years. Efforts will focus on strengthening partners so they can continue the legacy they started building with Instituto C&A. In 2015, for instance, the Brazilian Ministry of Education adopted Instituto C&A’s ‘Paralapracá’ guidelines for improving public education, developed in collaboration with the not-for-profit organization Avante. The guidelines will be included in the 2015 Educational Technologies Guide as a blueprint for raising standards across the country.

Employee volunteering

We also have an opportunity to help employees be a force for good in their communities, while giving them opportunities to develop their own skills. Around 3,500 C&A Brazil volunteers take part regularly, dedicating on average more than three hours per month, in activities designed to support and educate underprivileged children. Starting in 2016, volunteers will also focus on educating children about sustainability, positively influencing the next generation. Read more in Sustainable Lives.

Read more about Sustainable Lives
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