We care deeply about our customers and what’s important to them. Listening carefully to our customers around the world gives us valuable insights to address their priorities and expectations—especially when it comes to sustainability. In 2015, we completed our first-ever global survey of consumer perspectives on sustainability to understand what our customers think about sustainability, where they recognize our progress, what we’re doing well, and where we can make a difference. This comprehensive study yielded rich data, and since 2015 was the first year of our new sustainability goals, we’ll measure our future progress on customer engagement against this 2015 survey going forward. Already, the results are informing our sustainability priorities and strategy. Ultimately, this information will help us meet our sustainability goals while supporting business success.
This year we worked with research experts GlobeScan to benchmark perspectives in each market and gather feedback on consumers’ sustainability motivations, perceptions, and preferences. More than 7,600 consumers in six key markets (Brazil, China, France, Germany, Mexico, and the Netherlands) participated, and we plan to make this global survey and engagement approach an annual event . We will also do regional studies and research initiatives to get more local insights, beginning with China. C&A's reputation as a leader in sustainability varies across markets, but in general it is difficult for consumers to recognize any brand as a leader in sustainability at the moment. We receive the most top-of-mind mentions in Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands compared to competitors. Prompted ratings on environmental and social responsibility indicate that C&A has a good basic level of recognition on sustainability in all markets, mostly in line with, or ahead of competitors. This tells us that we have an opportunity to connect with consumers better and more frequently on our sustainability work to increase the percentage of consumers that recognize C&A as a leader over time.
A central part of our sustainability approach is to listen—and listen deeply. We conducted a driver analysis to understand which sustainability issues were most important to our customers. The analysis evaluated the importance of sustainability areas to customers against how they felt that we were performing in each area. While there are some nuances from country to country, several important issues were clear and require additional focus:
In some markets, like Europe, we’re strong in organic cotton and sustainable children’s clothing. But other sustainable business attributes—even those where we have strong programmes in place—were generally less well recognized. We will use this to identify areas where we can defend, accelerate and develop our programs and communication to customers. As we move ahead, we’ll compare customer ratings against these 2015 results to track improvement.
Consumers have told us clearly what sustainability issues matter the most to them and how they perceive us on those issues. For instance, when asked what C&A could do to improve trust, consumers in every market said more communication about sustainability was key, especially when it comes to transparent information around the origin of materials and fair conditions for workers in the supply chain. Likewise, when we develop policies for water and climate change, we’ll need to communicate them. Some other areas where our customers would like to learn more from us:
1 Customer research was conducted online in November 2015. Sample sizes: Brazil = 998, China = 1,006, France = 1,675, Germany = 1,403, Mexico = 1,093, Netherlands = 1,485
Communicating with our customers about sustainable cotton is vital to achieving our goal of reaching 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020. So it’s important we help them understand how this cotton is better for the environment—and for the farmers growing it.
In 2015, one of our customers, a blogger in Fortaleza, discovered our more sustainable options and decided to share our story. Her popular blog, Papo Materno (Maternal Talk), has more than 112,000 followers, and she has posted several stories about C&A Brazil’s more sustainable cotton, including bodysuits from our ‘Fun’ collection. Importantly, she explains to her readers that it’s better for a baby’s skin, uses less water, leads to fewer toxic chemicals in the environment, and helps cotton farmers improve their income and quality of life.
C&A Europe’s Spring Kids Brochure 2015 was our first to focus primarily on sustainable clothing. It introduced our baby wear collection made entirely from organic cotton certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and included other helpful sustainability facts. We also included dresses for girls made from more sustainable viscose (derived from non-endangered trees), and denim incorporating 28% recycled polyester (made from recycled plastic bottles) for toddlers and boys.
Jeans are a customer favourite, but they’re a high-impact product to make, and taking better care of them can go a long way to extending their use. In 2015, we began sharing tips for making jeans last longer, like pre-treating them at home, washing them as infrequently as possible, using a low temperature, and letting them air dry. These and other tips were posted in a blog and in stores as part of our Saving Water jeans collection. Read more in Sustainable Products.
We know our customers appreciate that we support charitable organisations working to improve the lives of children. Many of our customers are mothers themselves. During 2015, we gave C&A customers opportunities to lend their own support to Mothers Make the Difference, a C&A partnership with Save the Children that work with mothers and children in crisis areas. Customers could donate in collection boxes in stores, interact directly with Save the Children in selected stores, and buy Mother’s Day cards or Christmas gift tags that support the organizaton. Customers donated more than €452,000.
Mothers Make the Difference is part of our wider partnership with Save the Children, through which C&A Foundation will donate at least €3 million annually for the next three years. The funds will help mothers keep their children safe and healthy in emergency situations, help families in sourcing countries prepare for disasters, and protect children’s rights across the supply chain. Already in 2015, C&A Foundation donated an initial €50,000 towards Save the Children’s efforts to help provide basic sanitation, water, and food to refugees in Serbia. This help provided vulnerable families with needed humanitarian aid, including safe drinking water, food, and shelter.
As part of our longstanding strategy to keep our customers at the heart of everything C&A does, our European stores make it easy for customers to give feedback on their shopping experience through an online survey at home. We use the information to improve the customer experience within individual stores and at the country level. During 2015 we received more than 460,000 responses across 19 European countries.
While customers told us they’re fairly committed to C&A, we need to work even harder on improving overall store impression and service. This also means making it easier for customers to act sustainably. In the Netherlands, we invite our customers to recycle their old clothes at every one of our stores. Read more about this and our approach to the circular economy.